“We cannot do anything without water,” Sumati says.
For much of her life in a small village in India’s Patharpratima Block of West Bengal, Sumati did not have reliable access to water.
“Patharpratima is an island with water all around it,” she says. “And despite being surrounded with water, we did not have access to proper, safe drinking water.”
Sumati says women in her village used to wake up as early as 4am to make the day’s first trip to the water point over a mile away. They would have to make multiple trips during the day, and at times fights would break out as community members waited in the long line. Children would regularly miss school to help fetch water.
“A lot of time and energy was spent on collecting and storing water,” Sumati says. “Any kind of household work was difficult without sufficient water.”
During the rainy season, this already difficult and tiresome task was even worse, and Sumati and others in her community would have to go out in pouring rain, wading through water just to get to the water point.
“Getting water during the monsoon was a mammoth task,” she says.
This all changed when a safer water source was built much closer to Sumati’s community. Because most of the community members didn’t have the resources to help pay for the construction, they all chipped in by doing parts of the work themselves.
With the new water point in place, women don’t spend hours each day walking for water. Children don’t have to skip school to collect water or because they’re sick from drinking contaminated water. There is no more fighting at the water source.
Sumati says the village feels like a family now.
“Life has become easier in so many ways for us,” Sumati says. “I have a lot of time now to do household work, take care of my children, help my husband, and still have time for myself.”
“We are now able to think beyond just our basic survival to usher progress in our life.”