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 Sagni Bai, who campaigned for and successfully facilitated the implementation of the Nal Jal Yojana in her village, while also mobilizing women to play an active role in the governance of their water commons.
“Water is everything to us. Because of this water, we can grow vegetables in our kitchen garden and don’t need to buy from the market. Getting water at our doorstep means we don’t have to spend time fetching it. We now have more time to do our household work, take care of our children and contribute actively in village meetings, etc.”
Sagni Bai from Gubri, Mandla, was disheartened that the women of her village had to walk uphill every day to fetch water. Water scarcity was a prevalent challenge in this area and the burden of fetching sufficient water to meet drinking and other domestic needs was disproportionately borne by the women of the village.
Sagni Bai facilitating a village meeting (Image: FES)
The transformation of Gubri village’s water infrastructure began when Sagni Bai and the other women, exhausted by this daily chore of walking uphill to fetch water, raised this issue in the Mahila Sabha. Under the leadership of Sagni Bai, they decided to demand the implementation of the Nal Jal Yojana, a scheme that aims to provide drinking water for all, in their village. Sagni Bai advocated for these issues repeatedly on various platforms and her efforts finally paid off with the scheme being implemented.
The women were able to use the funds collected by the Self-Help Group (SHG) federation in their village to install solar-powered pumps and lay down pipelines to provide water to the village community at their doorsteps.
Thanks to the successful implementation of the water-conservation programme, Sagni Bai was able to mobilise the women to play an active role in managing their water commons. This has helped encourage judicious use of water in the village. The women now grow vegetables in their kitchen gardens during winter and summer and fulfil their families’ nutritional needs without having to depend extensively on the market.
Sagni Bai continues to advocate for water conservation in her village and to motivate other women to start playing an active role in the management of their water commons.