Water, Health & Education for Women and Children in Thar
While site visits, reports from project partners and interactions with the projects form the basis of assessing progress at a project, some chapters use an external, impartial evaluator to visit the project and provide valuable feedback. Here is a summary from one such report.
Rajasthan is one of largest states of India. The western half of this state is covered by the Thar, the largest inhabited desert in the world. The people of this area depend largely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood. Uncertain and scanty rainfall results in crop failure and frequent droughts. Lack of drinking water makes the community suffer from serious health problems, poor sanitation and other socio-economic difficulties.
Women and girls suffer the most thanks to gender disparity. Their status is determined by a power structure dominated by patriarchy.
Gender disparity, coupled with rampant droughts, ensure that little attention is paid to girls’ education . Girls often drop out to help increase household income or take over domestic responsibilities. They have to travel long distances to fetch water or firewood during droughts. Women too, are busy all day – collecting fuel wood, water and fodder. Further, the dry conditions and lack of water lead to severe health challenges, especially ones affecting women and children.
Considering the situation, it is necessary to develop an area-specific model focusing on water security, health care and education to benefit the rural communities. This project, with specific concern on women and children, was an attempt to overcome the challenges through development of village-based water, health and education network. The project was implemented in 6 villages of Jodhpur district.
The project was evaluated by an independent evaluator, HEDCON. The evaluation drew on a variety of primary and secondary sources to assess the project’s achievements, strengths and weaknesses. Primary data included interactions with project staff, beneficiaries, and some government health-workers. Other key primary sources were the project proposal document, baseline survey report, annual report, etc. The evaluation team visited the district and covered more than half of the randomly selected villages. Secondary sources, including quantitative data collected by GRAVIS, are also used.
Evaluation of the project provides findings on activities for water supply, women empowerment, community healthcare, capacity building and education. Further analysis is needed to finish the project and generate recommendations.
Key findings and conclusions
The key findings are:
- The project was relevant given the water, health and education profile of villages, vulnerabilities of women and children, and GRAVIS’ presence and capacities.
- Scheduled activities with people’s participation including construction, appraisal initiatives, capacity building programs and linkages were relevant to the project objectives.
- All activities were implemented as planned and within time limits. No scheduled activity was dropped.
- Project activities focused on women and children of target communities, addressing their poor status, water scarcity, education and health conditions, with special emphasis on girls’ education.
- Taankas are used as storage tanks of water from other sources like GLRs (ground-level reservoirs). Rain water harvested in taankas lasts for 5 to 6 months a year. Relatively easy access to potable water changed the day-to-day life of the villagers, particularly women and girls .
- Safe drinking water is available close to the residence. Livestock have benefitted due to water availability in the household. Women and girls have escaped the drudgery of fetching water from long distances thus saving time and money of households.
- Innovations with indigenous practices of water harvesting techniques (such as Khadin) made water available in adequate amounts for farming and ensured food security.
- Availability of safe drinking water reduced the occurrence of diseases. Moreover, people are now aware of general, seasonal and fatal diseases.
- Villagers take vaccinations against preventable diseases and go for health check-ups whenever required. Health camps helped people in diagnosis of seasonal and chronic diseases. Medicines are made available through the camps. People are drawn out of orthodox practices regarding health and their faith in sorcery has diminished to some extent.
- Employment & livelihood
- Taanka and khadin construction generated employment.
- Vegetation around homes has increased.
- SHG (self-help group) members have learnt about internal loaning, have started practicing it and are being benefitted. They are aware of revolving funds too and are demanding it.
- Women are aware of the importance of saving, and earn through household enterprises.
- Owning a taanka is a matter of pride for the family. This raises their social status.
- Women have started exercising financial and social ownership. They are playing major roles in VDCs (village development communities), and gram panchayats. They are trained in maintaining primary record register of SHGs (self-help groups).
- Exposure trips help women to come out of their shells and know about their surroundings and places important for them, like hospitals, tehsils and public places.
- Enrollment of children increased in schools established by GRAVIS.
- The ratio of girls to boys improved in schools.
- Children, especially girls of families owning taankas, have started going to school,
- Exposure trips for children helped them through cultural interaction. Children gained historical, social and administrative knowledge.
- As the project focuses on water and food security, health and education, it is a continuous process and its impacts can be better observed in the long term.
- Ratio of villages and activities: The number of activities per village per annum is too small to make any big impact. Fewer villages may have ensured focused intervention and created a good pilot for replication.
- Training: Discussions confirmed that trainings were organized and the quality of training was good. Nonetheless, it would have been better if the team had an written training module with clear topics and sessions.
Also, the number of trainings, for example vocational trainings for SHGs and teacher trainings, were insufficient.
- If the number of rain water harvesting taankas and khadins were more, girls’ enrollment would have increased.
- Advocacy and liaising with government was lacking.
- Women health-related issues could have been emphasized more.
- VDCs and VECs (village education committees) must be strengthened. Village funds were not collected. Fund management planning was lacking. This hampered effective use of funds.
- IEC (information, education and communication) material would have generated more awareness.
- Only quarterly and annual reports, financial reports and some other modes could show the implementation of activities. A strong monitoring system for the project should be designed and agreed upon.
- No withdrawal policy or exit strategy is designed.