Sometimes pain can be turned into a powerful symbol of strength and revival.
It can change the lives of everyone around. Ask the women of Kammavanpettai village in Tamil Nadu. Women were in despair at seeing the depleting levels of river Naganadhi, family life thrown into upheaval with husbands addicted to alcohol and unmotivated to work, economic insecurity with no steady income and children to feed. But, things began to change. Despair paving way to hope and achievement with rising levels of waters, income, and confidence. It all started with a chance observation.
Tapping female strength
Members of The Art of Living Water Projects team were surveying the area to plan for the rejuvenation of the Naganadhi river. Observing the plight of the womenfolk, the group encouraged them to work on the water project.
They first began teaching the women self-empowerment and stress management tools through The Art of Living’s rural programs. With a boost in confidence and energy, these women took up the challenge and inspired others to join in too.
Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA is a scheme by the Indian government to facilitate rural employment), the women are able to earn an independent livelihood and support themselves and their families.
“After we’ve brought this project to our village, not only do we have sufficient water, but we’re also earning well through the 100 days scheme project (MGNREGA),” shares Shanthi from Salamanthanam. “Our people and our farmers are happy.”
The women also feel a renewed sense of empowerment and inspiration to explore their capabilities.
“We were asked to dig wells to a depth of 20 feet. At first, we didn’t believe we could do it. But, once we began, there was no stopping us till the job was done,” beams Anandi, a local village woman in Kammavanpettai working for the river rejuvenation projects.
“The cement rings, which are the primary components of the recharge wells, are built in-house to the desired thickness and height, solely by the womenfolk,” notes Mr. Chandrashekar Kuppan, the team leader for River Projects in Tamil Nadu. While Chitra says, “We dug the wells, placed the concrete rings and closed them with slabs. I’m overwhelmed at how much we’ve done, just us womenfolk.”
“Our wells have been dry for over 15 years, but now have seen increasing water levels, thanks to the committed female workforce dedicated to this project. I believe that if the Art of Living’s River Rejuvenation project is undertaken in every village in Tamil Nadu, we can eliminate the problem of water scarcity in its entirety.”
~ Balaram, a Panchayat leader from Salamanthanam
Amsaveni says, “Now I do not have to ask my husband and wait for him to give me money to buy basic goods for the household, myself or my children. I can buy them on my own.”
Working for the river rejuvenation project has transformed the underprivileged wives, mothers, and sisters of Nagara into self-dependent women. And their work has benefitted the community.
Vijayakumari, working under MGNREGA to build watersheds to revive Naganadi rives notes, “Our people worked hard and are now reaping the fruit of their toil. The villagers from Salamanthanam are overjoyed to see water in their wells after 15 years.”
Results come in
The work on the Naganadhi river rejuvenation began in Thiruvannamalai and Vellore with a group of volunteers in September 2014. Construction of recharge wells and boulder checks allowed greater percolation of water. These efforts were rewarded kindly.
- 7 open wells which were dry for years are now holding water.
- Groundwater has been recharged. A 32-feet deep well is now cupping water up to 26 feet.
- A 45-feet well has shown levels up to 30 feet.
- Some borewells are supplying a continuous supply of water.
Story credit: The documentation team, Art of Living Bureau of Communication
Published on: July 2017