Water tank eases women’s lives

Women and girls of Balsehra had dedicated their lives primarily to fetching water; today it is a tap away
For centuries women and girls had to haul the water up a steep path three times a day
October 2014, Balsehra: Throughout the centuries the lives of the women and girls in the village of Balsehra were devoted primarily to fetching water. But today, they have taps in their village. The village even has latrines now. All thanks to a water tank.

Balsehra is a small village of 65 households, almost 500 inhabitants, in the Swat valley. Its inhabitants are mostly poor peasants, with no land of their own.

During the early 2000s, five influential families impressed on the local authorities the need to install a water tank. However, after it was installed, they decided it was scarcely enough for their own needs. The remaining sixty households had no clean drinking water. They used open streams and rivers for drinking purposes and the task of fetching that water fell to women and girls – indeed, that was their number one duty.

So right up until April 2014, three times a day the women of this hamlet have had to carry water 800 meters, in pitchers on their heads, or in pails on donkeys, up a steep, narrow, zigzagging path.

Mr. Qadam Shah, a village elder, says the women were often injured or lost their water pitchers. They also often got into trouble at home when the water would run out. For this, they would be punished. Such was the pressure that they had no time to take care of their health or look after their children, or maintain desirable standards of hygiene.

Mr. Gul Bacha, who had lived in the village all his 62 years, reckons that the lack of water was the cause of many conflicts between the households.

So when representatives of the PEACE project arrived in March 2013 to ask if they were interested in forming Community Organisations to better resolve priority problems, they said yes.

There was little doubt as to what that priority was and a survey quickly established that they wanted to build a Drinking Water Supply Scheme/Station (DWSS) with a capacity of 5,000 gallons.

One of the problems was the villagers had no land on which to build the water tank but during the training for the Community Organisations, they realized they could approach some of the landowners outside the village. The PEACE team also helped them with the negotiations and one of the landowners agreed to let them use his land. The next question was cost. A feasibility study organised under the guidance of the PEACE experts established that the tank, pipes, pumps, taps etc. would come to EUR 1.2 million, but that could be reduced by 20% if the villagers did the work. They readily agreed. So the PEACE team agreed to fund the rest. The project was completed within months.

Today Balsehra is a hamlet with clean drinking water and every member of each household can easily avail 15 liters water per day as per the recommended guidelines.

The women are delighted. Instead of spending their day fetching water they can spend their time taking care of their homes and children. No one is angry with them when the water runs out. They have also established kitchen gardens in their homes and now grow onions, spinach, chilies etc.

Now that they have water they have also been able to build four of the first proper latrines the hamlet has known. Such a possibility would have been impossible before they could access water. Today, the villagers of Balsehra can wash, they can cook, they can drink safely, and they can even perform ablution to prepare for prayers.

Fact Box

Programme for Economic Advancement and Community Empowerment (PEACE)

Total cost of scheme:
EUR 7,727

MCO Khidmat-e-Khalq Falahi Tanzeem’s contribution:
EUR 990

For the men it was important to be able to perform their ablutions before prayers
“The lack of water was the cause of many conflicts amongst the households.”

Mr. Gul Bacha

Fact Box

Location: Balsehra

District Swat

Households benefiting:
65 households and a population of 488

Scope: 5,000 gallon tank

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