We live in a country where women are celebrated for their strength and wisdom, for their knowledge and virtue, for their warmth and courage. Yet again, women have made the news nation-wide.
Around 300 women have turned well-diggers in the Palakkad district of Kerala to find a solution to the acute water scarcity in the hamlet and earn a living. These mettlesome women from the village of Kerala made it into a male bastion. They turned well-diggers across drought-hit villages in Kerala. They went 80 ft deep without any fear.
Battling various challenges, these homemakers have dug over 190 wells across drought-hit village and proved they truly belong to the most literate state of the country by governing their lives on their own.
The Kerala government declared the state drought-hit in October last year, owing to a huge drop in rainfall, both in the south-west and the north-east monsoon. Most of the rivers in the state are nearly dry. Back then, the government had brought out a list of guidelines, including steps like reducing the use of water and recycling used water.
The women, however, made things easier in the area when they began digging the wells with spades and shovels in October 2016, when the first signs of drought became more obvious. Even earlier, when there was water available, it was the women who walked many kilometers to fetch it.
37-year-old Radha has been employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) for the past four years and never before in her life had she faced her fears in the way she was doing now.
When the panchayat officials suggested the idea, I was honestly scared for my life. But the idea of doing work that only men have been doing for years, was interesting in itself. But I couldn’t bring myself to be in the first team. But when other women proved we could also dig wells, I joined them.
Hindustan Times reports that none of the women had any prior experience in digging wells, but that hasn’t stopped them. “We never had any experience of digging wells. But our collective spirit helped us learn the trick easily. Now we have warmed up to it and most of us get into 80-feet deep without any fear,” K Radha reportedly said.
According to the panchayat officials, there are 2000 registered members under MNREGA in the panchayat, out of which not more than 700 are men.
K Jayadevan, president of Pookkottukavu panchayat, believes that women dig wells with the same perfection as that of their professional and skilled male counterparts. Jayadevan says,
Until then, the women used to take up cleaning drives on the roads and water bodies, work at the lands of private individuals and coconut farms. But the master circular discontinued a few activities, and said that the workers cannot go back to work in the same coconut farm every year. This threw up a challenge before us, that is to generate enough employment to all the workers.
He told PTI,
The first well, dug by a group of women, under the scheme looked like a pit. But, as they took up more wells, they have perfected. The latest ones, made by them, are really structural marvels. This transition is the proof of empowerment attained by these village women.
Instead of waiting and yearning for something as basic as water, these women took charge and created a milestone. While digging wells in the village, they indirectly paved the way for future generation to retrace the path and work for their needs.