From the time when Nasreen was a little girl, she knew only one way of fetching water – walking miles to the nearest well and carrying 10-20 litres of water in steel pots over her head or around her waist. She had seen her grandmother, mother and almost every woman in her village carry out this tedious task every day – sometimes more than once in a day. Unfortunately, Nasreen knew no better.
Nasreen Shaikh lives in Lohagaon village in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, with her husband Yunus Shaikh, her 8-year-old daughter and two sons, aged 10 and one-and-a-half. Her husband works as a mason, while she herself works as a farm labourer.
Nasreen used to wake up at five every morning to fetch water for her family. She carried two steel pots – one on her head and the other around her waist – to carry the water back home. As there are five members in the house, she made four rounds to collect 10 litres of water, so that it could be enough for the entire family throughout the day. This was her ritual some time back. The entire process used to take two whole hours.
Unable to take care of her youngest child during this time, she was forced to leave him at her neighbour’s house. To add to her plight, she started suffering from pain around her waist and in the legs. As a result, she was left tired and worn-out for the rest of day and she couldn’t dedicate enough time or attention to her children. This affected her deeply.
One day, she attended a women’s meeting in her village, where the group was discussing the advantages of the water wheel conceived by the non-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity India. The water wheel makes it easy to fetch water from the nearest drinking water source. It helps avoid the effort of carrying weight over the head. Instead, it can be simply pulled or pushed. Nasreen understood the benefits of having a water wheel and brought one home for herself.
Today, the water wheel enables Nasreen to easily take home 45 litres of water in a single trip, by simply rolling it. The ease and feasibility of this contraption has enabled Nasreen to save her energy and time for other household activities. Her health has improved and she no longer complains of aches and pains. She even participates in community work and promotes the use of the water wheel among other women in her village. But more than anything, what makes her the happiest is that this new improvement in her life has allowed her to spend more quality time with her children.
“It was difficult to devote a lot of time in fetching water. It used to take roughly about two hours to fetch water, as the water source was a kilometre away from our house. I experienced physical stress on a daily basis. When the water wheel was provided to my family, it reduced excessive time consumption and health problems. Now my children and husband also contribute towards fetching water for our family,” says Nasreen with a smile on her face.
The water wheel concept was developed by Habitat for Humanity India in an attempt to improve the efficiency of water transport and storage, across the difficult terrains in Maharashtra. The water wheel is a cylindrical plastic drum, made of safe, food-grade high-density polyethylene, with a capacity of 45 litres – three to five times more than what can be transported by the traditional method. It includes a plastic/metal handle to ease its rolling movement, which allows any family member to use it to fill water.
Since 2015, Habitat for Humanity India has provided water wheels to 1,795 families in some of the major districts of Maharashtra. The concept has become so widely accepted that nowadays, even the men in the villages have started taking the responsibility to fetch water – something which was rarely seen, earlier. Water wheels have therefore become the vehicles for development in these villages.
To help Habitat for Humanity India provide water wheels to many more women and families for their benefit, visit here.