LIFE changing attitudes – rural women at the centre of WASH decision making in Pakistan

Women from Dandi Kot village in Buner district, Pakistan, carrying water vessels on their heads

Ms. Gulzari, a mother-of-three, would spend up to 10 hours a day fetching water for her family in northern Pakistan.

Like many other residents of Dandi Kot Village in the Buner District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, her family depended on water from open-source springs that are a two-hour round trip from home.

Every day, Ms. Gulzari would make four or five trips to fetch enough water for cooking, drinking, handwashing and hygiene. The chore put a strain on her, and left her children vulnerable while she was away. A woman collecting water from an open source spring in Buner district, Pakistan

Determined to find a solution, she joined the women-Inclusive Wash Jirgas (IWJ) - a leadership assembly making women part of the decision-making process for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs - established through the Leveraging Inclusive WASH for Empowerment (LIFE) project with International Rescue Committee (IRC).

After attending sessions on topics such as personal and domestic hygiene and water quality, Ms. Gulzari talked to her husband about installing a safe water source for their drinking and WASH needs at home.

The family already struggled on a limited income, so Ms. Gulzari devised a solution - to sell her dowry, some gold - to finance the purchase and installation of a hand pump, which has changed her family’s life for the better.

Today, Ms. Gulzari reports that she is less stressed, has more time to spend on other productive activities, and is home to watch over her daughters, who a can focus on their studies. The family has enough water to practice better hygiene, including regular handwashing, and are healthier for consuming clean and safe drinking water.

Ms. Gulzari also uses the grey water to grow fresh vegetables in the family's kitchen garden in the backyard.

She has become a valued member of the IWJ and an example to other women, many of whom are now considering having a hand water pump installed at their homes too.

Pakistan is the world’s 36th most water-stressed country and faces water safety, sanitation and hygiene challenges. About 16 million people have no choice but to collect water from unsafe sources.

Buner District is an intervention area in the LIFE project, which aims to support 168,758 people in 75 villages across Peshawar, Swat & Buner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The women-Inclusive WASH Jirgas in these communities are transforming the gender attitudes that have long-prevailed and empowering women in their decision-making and action taking. Water for Women partners with IRC for the implementation of this multi-year project.

Australia is investing AUD118.9m through the Water for Women Fund, to deliver 33 WASH projects and research initiatives that aim to support 2.9 million people in 15 countries across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific. Water for Women is being delivered as part of Australia's aid program over five years, from 2018 to 2022.


Photos: International Rescue Committee


Contact Us