Monday, 8 March 2021

I recently visited Dhikwar village in Rajasthan adopted by Standard Chartered Bank in collaboration with the technical partner Piramal Sarvajal to provide easy access to safe and affordable drinking water. 

(The total population of the village is 2743 and 275 households. ~source: baseline impact study of Sarvajal. The existing source water is provided through the stand posts, situated in 9 different corners of the village. The source has TDS- 1,135 ppm to 2,845 ppm. Furthermore, it is crucial to note that 94% (31/33) of respondents rated their drinking water quality as poor.)

On my first meeting with newly appointed operator Pooja Ji, I sensed her insecurities which is though common in rural India. Her head and entire face were covered with a veil and her voice was low. I felt skeptical that time whether she would be able to manage the tasks of being an operator or not. 

I spent 2 days with her while we were doing pre-launch awareness and behaviour based activities. During the interactions with the community, I was amazed to see that she came out to be a quick learner. After sometime her strong willpower was observed to speak to the villagers and accompany me in the conversations. 

It says, “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Everything was so new to her she shared and affirmed “Aap aache se samjha denge toh mai kar lungi” 

At launch, I saw an altogether new person who was learning about the machine and its process. After sometime, I asked her "could you now demonstrate to me what all you have learnt from our field engineer. She instantly started the machine and at that moment I could see her head was high with pride and dignity without her ghunghat on her face. 

Villagers also appreciated her and congratulated her for getting the opportunity to showcase her talent. 

One of the government senior school teachers said to me that “you have chosen a deserving person as she has faced financial uncertainties in her life, the livelihood will help her to manage her kids and socio-economic condition shall improve. Pooja already has experience with Machines and she understands things quickly so operating the machine won’t be an issue. Sarvajal will indeed play an uplifting role in her life ”

People's belief on her made me feel nostalgic and I felt that every woman should get such opportunities and leadership to take in her community thereby challenging the stereotypes. 

On being asked about her experience after a few days of launch, she spoke to me confidently and said "Vaishali hum abhi kaafi logo se baat chit kar rahe hai.. log ek doosre ko dekhkar prerit ho rahe hai aur paani ka card humse banwa rahe hai”

It was a moment of contentment to see that the community has accepted a female taking role of leadership and management and was empowered to live a dignified life. At the same time, I felt satisfying to witness financial upliftment in pooja Ji's life. Not only this, it was delightful as she would now constantly expand her horizon on daily basis.