Of women and water in Sindh’s Kohistan
In this vast universe of God, Earth is the only planet where the element of water exists and because of water, life exists.
For survival, our life is dependent more on water than anything else but despite all this, mankind is wasting water immensely.
Researches have warned that Pakistan’s water shortage problem, which emerged in 1990s, will reach a complete dry out level by the year 2025.
The main question that arises is what will the future of water supply be like?
And since life without water is impossible, what will our future lives be like?
It should be remembered that the country has reached this level due to the indifference of the successive governments.
If they had wanted to, dams and other facilities could have been built to preserve water and increase its availability. The country does not have a lack of rainfall or the monsoon season, yet every year the rainfalls turn into floods and destroys the infrastructure of both rural and urban areas.
Today, I am taking you to a place where the government is visibly absent but due to presence of some social workers, the problem of water shortage has somewhat been dealt with and it’s an example for the well-developed cities as well.
The Barren Land of Kohistan
Upon hearing the name of Kohistan, one is reminded of the place Kohistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, famous for its water and other natural resources. But, the Kohistan we are talking about is located in Sindh, deprived of the necessities of life and still stuck in the age of the 19th century.
In the middle of the provincial constituency of PS 85 Thatta 2, this village is represented by Sassui Palijo, a PPP leader.
Going towards Thatta there is a small path that leads towards this place, which is called Kohistan. Aside from having similar names there is nothing in common between the two Kohistans.
The one situated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has mountains, water resources, greenery and a stable livelihood whereas the one in Sindh is surrounded by dusty planes, poverty, loneliness and hopelessness.
Although the situation has gotten better overtime, we will still give you a glimpse of what life was like here before the availability of water.
The burden women endure in Kohistan
If one is familiar with the culture of interior Sindh then it’s not surprising to see women bringing water for use in almost all the households.
The women in Kohistan journey to far off places three or five kilometers away just to collect water and that too, three times a day. In some cases while journeying to get water, pregnant women give birth and even then they are not excused from this daily chore.
Due to regularly carrying buckets and water drums on their heads, all the women suffer from health issues such as weakening of the spine, pain in knee joints, weakening of the immune system, weight loss and extreme hair fall.
Even young girls have to make this trip as soon as they have enough strength. Many girls in the area want to get an education and their parents are aware of their wishes but, they are reluctant to fulfill this wish in the face of this societal norm.
Parents, especially men, want their girls to get an education but financial restraints are the biggest barrier in fulfillment of this desire.
With the passage of time some men have learned that ‘times are changing and if a man willingly wants to go and
give the women a hand then he is allowed to do so’.
— Fariha Fatima (@fatma_sultana) November 1, 2017
One of the excuses that men present for not helping their women is that “If they start bringing water then who will earn for the family.
But, this excuse is not valid in most cases, as the men are jobless and sit idly at home all day or waste their time in various gatherings.
How did the change occur?
It is said that if a person has no one, he has God. If it weren’t for the absence of governmental support, the people of Kohistan wouldn’t have gotten any attention from other social work agencies.
Whereas, if the government had been involved, the representatives would have done nothing but to make false promises.
An example of this is the RO Plant, built more than 8 years ago and which has not started working till the present day.
An agency name ‘Indus Earth Trust’ partnered with an international soft-drink company to start a project called “Water for Women”.
A lot of questions were raised concerning the name of the project and why it only aims to provide water for women and not for men? In reply to this query the company responded that if it’s considered a woman’s job to go and collect water then the project should also be dedicated to women.
This project took up the responsibility to provide water for 34 villages in Kohistan.
The water source for these women, are big ponds, which get filled during the rainy seasons. For the rest of the year women travel to these ponds and bring water from it.
But, in summertime due to the intense heat, the water in the lake dries up fast. The first initiative taken was to increase the water supply in the ponds. For this to happen, the NGO started work on increasing the depth of a total of 18 ponds present in Kohistan.
10 more reservoirs were built in the barren path going towards the ponds. When the monsoon season arrives, the rain water came down from the Kirthar Mountains (present in Kohistan) and filled these reservoirs and ponds with water. Hand pumps were also built on the sides of these ponds so that when the water level decreases, the women won’t have to go through any extra trouble.
The NGO also plans on creating 20 wells in the village so women won’t have to travel far to collect the water.
All this development has made Kohistan self-sufficient, where water will be available throughout the whole year. The 15000 residents of these 34 villages are more than happy that such a development has taken place and are now focusing on starting farming on the desert planes to reduce dryness of the area.
One more facility for the women
After watching the developmental work started by the Indus Earth Trust, the village was noticed by a few other people who set out to help the villagers. One such person provided the villagers with water wells. These water wells are big water cans with long handles attached to the top.
It is much easier for women to drag these water wells with the handles rather than to carry the water cans on their heads.
Also, these water wells can carry up to 40 liters of water which fulfills the need of water for a whole day, whereas, the small water holders that women previously had, could only hold up to 2 to 3 liters of water.
These new improvements gives the young girls in the community a chance to get an education and for the older women to spend their time in other meaningful activities.
We can take this case as an example and build dams in the cities to fulfill the need of the citizens.This would also help reduce the floods and the destruction of the infrastructure every year.