Photo courtesy of Charity:Water

If you’re like me, it’s hard to give money to something without knowing where it will go or what it can do. For this year’s Aperture Effect, I’m asking you to consider passing your hard-earned money to the people of India—giving them a taste of health and a taste of dignity.

From Charity:Water, here’s the story of Bhagyalata whose life was changed by the gift of clean water.

Walking for water was part of daily life for the women in Jharabandho village. In addition to taking care of the children and their household chores, it was their job exclusively to collect water for their families.

A typical day started early…

…with a walk to the nearest water source and then a wait. With an inconsistent water supply, the last in line were often out of luck. The only bathing option was the nearby pond, and many of the kids had scabies—a skin disease—as a result. Ten years ago, this town was called “the scabies village.”

The women of Jharabandho came up with a plan:  If they could work together to bring the Gram Vikas program to their village, their lives would change forever. No more dirty water and waiting for dusk. No more walking and no more disease. But possibly the worst hardship of all, was that none of their homes had toilets. And because men found it embarrassing for their wives to go to the bathroom in daylight, women often had to wait until dusk.

Until one day…

…the village heard that an organization called Gram Vikas was building water projects and toilets in neighboring villages.

But the path to clean water wasn’t going to be easy. In order for a village to get help from Gram Vikas, they had to demonstrate their commitment first. Each family must construct their own toilet and bathing facility before the water system is built.

Kuni Dakua remembers the day she asked her husband for help carrying rocks for their toilet. She was surprised to hear his reply, “Why do we need clean water and a toilet — that’s a luxury only for the rich.” Bhagyalata got her husband’s attention in a different way — she refused to cook his meals until he agreed to take part in the effort.

Many of the men were angry…

…at first. To them, clean water and toilets were unnecessary extras — a waste of their hard-earned money. The women’s protests were sometimes silenced with violence. But Bhagyalata and the other women stood firm and supported each other. And after hundreds of town hall meetings and years of discussions, the men finally gave in.

Once the village fully agreed, Gram Vikas installed a system of pipes that delivered water directly into every household. Each family got three taps:  in their kitchen, bathing room and toilet.

And water changed everything…

…Families became healthier. Women started planting and selling vegetables, making leaf plates and sewing. For the first time, women started earning an income. And now, years later, the men see the benefits too. Now they understand what the women saw. And there’s no doubt— the investment paid off.

You can help bring clean water to villages like Bhagyalata’s and provide a better way of life for women.

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