In India, water has always been critical to life and livelihoods. Currently, 99 million people lack access to clean water in the country. Indigenous communities particularly women face the brunt of water shortages, aggravated by climate change and increasing desertification. EU support to Welthungerhilfe has empowered hundreds of thousands of women volunteers in their journey towards ensuring water security in drought-prone regions in India, particularly in Bundelkhand. Over the years, availability of water in Bundelkhand region have become very serious due to continuous failure of monsoons resulting in drought. Water scarcity for irrigation and drinking purposes is posing a serious threat to the population.
Jal Sahelis or women water warriors are women of all ages who have sounded a clarion call for water security in their areas. Welthungerhilfe and their partner Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan have organized and trained these women volunteers on issues related to water resource planning, management and conservation. The volunteers are part of Jal Jan Jodo Abhiyan – a national movement that aims to make the Right to Water a reality in India.
Today, there are nearly 500 Jal Sahelis who have been capacitated and are active across 7 districts of the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Dressed uniformly in blue saris, they are promptly available to resolve water issues in their villages. They have repaired handpumps, built check dams with government allocations and organized ‘shramdan’ or voluntary contributions by the community to revive traditional ponds in villages. They have been recognized for their effective work in resolving water issues by state and national governments including the Jal Shakti (Water Resources) Ministry, Government of India.