Access to water lightens women’s burdens

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“I was exhausted at the end of the day,” says Amina Bibi. “I just could not go on coping with a routine that did not allow for any rest or respite.”

Amina Bibi lives in Siksa, a village in Ghanche, located at the eastern-most tip of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The village appears paradisiacal, surrounded by the snowy peaks of the world’s highest mountains. Yet for the women of Siksa, the rugged terrain was long a challenge they had to face every day as they walked for hours to collect water for the family’s needs. Water for drinking, washing and even irrigation – all was collected on foot by the women of Siksa. Every morning they rose early and left home to fetch water. Every afternoon and night they waited their turn to irrigate the fields as the meagre water supply was rationed, and distributed in a 24-hour cycle amongst households.

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“Our lives revolve around water,” says Amina Bibi. “We cannot be part of any event be it mourning or celebration. The men observe rituals and cultural traditions while we spend our time fetching water.”

Like many of her neighbours, Amina Bibi took her two daughters out of school to help fetch water and to take turns irrigating fields at night.

Then, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through its New World collaboration with Coca Cola, brought a reliable new water source directly to the village. This multi-country initiative seeks to build environmentally sustainable and resilient communities through access to safe water and sanitation, and improved water resources through community based approaches. Recognizing the importance of this initiative, the women of Siksa laboured alongside the men to quickly construct the water source.

“We had given up hope after years of trying to get help to access a reliable source of water. Finally we have enough water for all households and no one has to stay awake during the night to take turns to water the fields,” says Amina Bibi’s neighbour.

Once complete, the water source transformed the lives of Amina Bibi, her daughters and all the women of Siksa. For the first time, they were able to perform their household chores, keep their daughters in school, and even get a full night’s sleep. As one of the women said, beaming, “It feels like we are in heaven!”

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