The humble hand pump has become an emancipator for a handful of women in Bundelkhand. Savitri, Prema, Bhuri and 20 other illiterate, oppressed women from Karvi in Chitrakoot district are earning their livelihood by repairing hand-pumps.
For years, these women had been facing domestic violence. So, when two local women’s NGOs —Vanangana and Mahila Samakhya — offered this chance, it was a call to freedom. “Learning this work wasn’t easy: men disapproved and my family threatened to disown me. But after being bonded for generations to the upper-class village landowner, I decided I had to step out. Once I started earning, I feared nothing. Now I know I can educate my children and free my family from years of bondage,” says Savitri.
Soon, Chitrakoot Jal Nigam (CJN) also began supporting the women by giving them contracts to fix hand-pumps in the area. Today, the women receive private contracts as well, and earn upto Rs 300 a day. “If a village panchayat is good, they ask us to do some work and pay us. But sometimes the panchayats are cruel; many have not paid us,” says Prema. Adds Savitri: “Sometimes, the villagers themselves approach us to repair the pumps and collect money amongst themselves to pay us.”
Social barriers aside, their work is demanding: they often have to trek several kilometres to reach the ‘repair site’. And when the pump can’t be repaired on the site itself, they have to carry it on their backs to their ‘workstation’.
Says Madhavi Kukerja of Vanangana, “It’s overwhelming to see them working at this so religiously.”
Courtesy: Hindustan Times