In June 2021, UNDP felicitated 41 Women Water Champions for their remarkable contributions to water-conservation efforts in the country. We are proud to share that, out of the 41 champions identified, five women - Pareshamma, Sarju Bai, Sagni Bai, Laichi Bai, and Gayatri Sharma are from the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) project areas in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Here, we share the story of Gayatri Sharma, who has undertaken well water monitoring in and around her village and has also facilitated water literacy programmes for sensitizing her village community towards the protection of their water commons. She has managed to mobilise several youths to join her water campaign as well.
“Water, a common and valuable resource for all, demands conservation and tactful management. I feel youth pick up the nuances of technology easily, which can be used for sustainable water governance,” says Gayatri Sharma, a young water warrior from the village of Bavdi, located in Jahazpur Block, Bhilwara district of Rajasthan.
The women in her village previously had to walk for several miles in the scorching heat, queuing up for long durations to fetch water from the only well in the vicinity. The women had to repeat this exercise four to five times a day, in order to fetch sufficient water. Further, since this was the only source of water, it was used for domestic needs, livestock needs as well as irrigational needs, adversely impacting the already-stressed groundwater table in the area.
Gayatri, who was a school student at the time, was deeply affected by this situation. She was motivated to bring about a change in the community’s consumption of water resources and launched a community programme where she enabled knowledge sharing on water conservation, governance and management.
This helped raise awareness among community members, both young and old, and also people of adjoining villages. Gayatri also mobilised the women of her panchayat and the adjoining ones, helping them understand the significance of conserving every drop of water.
Using several technologies like well-water depth monitoring and construction of water-harvesting structures, she shared the analyses and inferences with the communities, motivating them to adopt efficient water-conservation practices.
She directed the women in her community to use water-literacy tools like Composite Landscape Assessment and Restoration Tools (CLART), Crop Water Budgeting (CWB) and Groundwater Monitoring Tool (GWMT), thereby demystifying these technologies and making them accessible. This has encouraged women to actively participate in water conservation efforts.
Another noteworthy effort that Gayatri Sharma has pioneered is the monitoring of wells for assessing the depth of groundwater. In two years, she has successfully surveyed 80+ wells on her own and, in 2021 alone, she has supported the data collection for another 150 wells.
She, along with other youth from the village, has led efforts to create numerous water-harvesting structures and improve water conservation across the block. Within just a couple of years of the interventions, the block was dotted with green pastures and biodiversity.
Gayatri is now focused on completing her post-graduation studies and aspires to work for community development with an aim to bring in reforms in favour of natural resource management and sustainability.