Neeru Rathod is the 8th child in a family of 11 girls born to a Dalit construction worker in Surendranagar district of Gujarat, one of the most feudal and caste-ridden regions of India. Circumstances were difficult growing up but she found her path in 2006, when Video Volunteers and the NGO Navsarjan selected her to be part of a Community…
For the first time in 2 years the women of Kanpar have the pleasure of listening to the sound of a running tap in their homes. Shantu Panchal, a student, will no longer waste her time getting water but will be able to spend it reading and attending college.
Using her camera, Community Correspondent Neeru Rathod assisted the women in getting the water pipeline in the village repaired. We interviewed her to find out about how she solved in just a month's time a problem that had existed for 2 years.
In early March Neeru Rathod visited Kanpar village in Sayala Block, Guajarat. While carrying out other work she asked the women she met if they had any other problems they were facing.
"Yes we do, we haven't had water in the village for around 2 years now", a resident, Mani revealed.
Mani then took Neeru to visit the various houses—20 according to the women and 10 according to the Village head— that had not received water. Neeru patiently interviewed all of them and gathered the footage she needed to take further action.
"I visited around 10 houses that day and in each it was the same story. These women were walking 2 to 3 km to fetch water from the fields. In most cases they made multiple trips, about 8 times a day. One girl, Shantu, had not been going to college because she spent all her time getting water. The women complained of constant back and head aches caused by balancing pots on their heads", says Neeru.
"I know how difficult it is to be in their position. My village has had the same problem for years now. But this case, I thought, was different. The women in Kanpar have a strong self-help group and they were very determined to get things done. All they needed was for someone to tell them what to do", says Neeru.
Neeru decided to stay the night in the village after she filmed the footage. Early next morning she got an irate call from the Headwoman's husband. Neeru, cool and composed as ever, went to meet him.
"This is my village, you should have come and talked to me before making a video on this issue, why is it your business in any case?", she was told by the husband.
Her response: "My business, is that I am a community journalist, I will go, wherever I want and film whatever it takes to solve a community's problems."
"It was then that he began to look slightly worried. I also talked to the actual head person in the village, Geetaben, and asked her why her husband was doing the work on her behalf. She knew it was wrong but said that she had household chores to look after and that her husband wouldn't let her take the lead in any case", says Neeru.
But that meeting ended fruitfully with a promise from the headwoman and her husband that the pipeline would be fixed in 10 days. And fixed it was.
"I don't know what she said to him, but he looked worried. Our self-help group had also been putting pressure on him for some time but Neeru's visit seemed to do the trick. We had water within the next few days", says a very pleased Mani.
The pipeline, it turned out, had been choked by tree roots and assorted garbage; it took all of a day's work to get it cleaned and restore the water supply. So why did those 20 houses have to wait for 2 years?
Neeru alludes that there were caste politics at play, some people had to be paid off, some were waiting for the upper caste people to give the new pipeline deal a nod (the village was granted Rs.2,80,00 to put a new pipeline in place).
" But actually, the main thing is that till the question doesn't get large enough, no one bothers to answer it or solve the problem", explains Neeru.
"I wish that the people in my own village were so united in getting the water situation fixed. That these women worked so hard was very inspiring for me", she says.
They say change comes to those who wait but sometimes, change comes to those who raise their voices and demand it.