Around 300 women have turned well diggers in a nondescript village of northern Palakkad district of Kerala. Breaking into the male bastion they are now finding solution to the acute water scarcity in the hamlet and earning a living.
‘Well’ enough: Women of all ages come together
Even elderly women climb down the pits using makeshift bamboo ladders and dig arduously for hours using pickaxe and shovel, removing mud and clay in search of water sources in Pookkuttukavu, a village Panchayat.
These homemakers aged between 35 to 70 have battled all the challenges to dig 190 wells in the drought-hit village. Since last August these women have relentlessly worked towards building wells under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme.
Lack of skill training and physical limitations have not stopped them from digging 10-12 meters deep into the hard and rocky terrain of the Panchayat land.
Accepting the challenge
Seems like, the risk factor, meager wages and the general perception that it is a male oriented job had made the women hesitant before committing themselves to work. Nevertheless, the women in the village decided to take up this risky job in order to ensure steady daily wages to support their family.
The courageous attitude of well diggers have given the panchayat authorities a hope that it would help the village which is otherwise largely dependent on tankers to get drinking water during summer season. However, since the women have pitched in, their efforts would make the village self sufficient in terms of water. According to K Jayadevan, president of Pookkuttukavu panchayat, the women dig wells with utmost perfection as that of their skilled and professional male counterparts.
“The first well dug by the women under the scheme looked like a pit. However, as they took up more wells they have perfected their skillset. The latest ones made by them are structural marvels. Such a transition is a proof of the empowerment attained by these village women”, said K Jayadevan in an interview.
Aftermath of accepting the challenge
Hailing from Punchappadam in the hamlet, Laxmi a 39 year old woman feels proud about taking up the rigorous task. “We did not know anything about digging a well initially. At that point in time we relied on our group efforts and confidence. Gradually we learnt the basics of the work through our experience” Laxmi says proudly in an interview.
Pookkuttukavu is a village located 40 kms away from Palakkad town. With a population of over 20,000 it is a hamlet sans larger water bodies. The villagers are therefore dependent on tiny ponds and wells for water.
Laxmi said that the family members of most women were reluctant to let them take up this job. “Initially everyone had apprehensions. Our friends and family members told us that it would not be suitable for women. Sometimes, the Earth may cave in when we dig deep and women can not climb up as easily as men. Respiratory issues may also happen while going deep”.
Though the women themselves had a few apprehensions about indulging in well digging they eventually have excelled in the work in no time.
Picture Courtesy: Hindustan Times, News Minutes.