Access to water reduces hardship for women

Fiji Community Development Program (FCDP) is working in partnership with Ra Naari Parishad (RNP) and Habitat for Humanity Fiji (HFHF) to provide safe and reliable water supply for 50 people within the 10 households in Raravatu Settlement in Rakiraki, Ra. For the women in this community, this project has been life-changing.

58 year old Anjila Devi says her life has changed with the provision of safe and sustained water  supply. Anjila moved to Raravatu 40 years ago with her husband and since then has been without a reliable and safe source of water. “Water is a basic human need and it should be  readily available. Without water there are a lot of problems, especially for women. I know that  everyone needs water but women are usually the ones in my community who need to cart water back and  forth for their families,” says Anjila.

Before the project was implemented by RNP and HFHF, there was no existing reticulated water supply  in the community. The water source was a creek running at the base of the hilly community which  dried up a few years ago. The Water Authority of Fiji used to provide water to the settlement but  the supply was not consistent. Other alternatives were attempted but failed.

To collect water for drinking, bathing and other household chores, Raravatu women had to walk  almost two kilometres away from the community to a spring. Anjila says life became harder for her  after her husband passed away 25 years ago. “My son was six months old and he was born with an intellectual disability. After my husband’s death there was no one to look after him when I  had to collect water and even now he cannot be left at home alone.

I had to tie a string to his  hand and walk two kilometres to get water, holding my son with the string tied to his wrist for his  own safety. It became harder as my son grew older. He would scream and drag me off the road and get  really upset,” she recollects.
Residents of Raravatu Settlement, Rakiraki at the launch of the water project.

Ra Naari Parishad President Mrs Anand Pillay says the Raravatu community water project is a special project for them as they were always aware of the plight and water woes of the women in the community. “During a Community Development Planning (CDP) process, water was identified as a priority need by women, men, the elderly and the youth as well. The CDP process has proved to be very useful as it allowed the community to assess their own needs and prioritise them. This is a big change as most Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) go into communities with their expertise but with the CDP process it helps both the communities and CSOs to realize what the true priority needs are,” Mrs Pillay said.

RNP is planning to adopt the CDP process for any future community development projects. “FCDP’s  support has been marvellous. Not only were we introduced to the CDP process, but we were also  provided with training on proposal writing, child protection and financial management. This has  really strengthened our organisation,” she adds.

Reema Chand is the youth representative in the Raravatu Water Community. Reema says that with the  training provided by HFHF on maintenance of the water system she plans to become a water engineer. “Women really suffer when they do not have proper access to water. In a farming community it does  not matter if you are sick, elderly or pregnant. If there is no water available, you need to walk  and cart water filled in plastic bottles or buckets. I hope to gain engineering skills and help
nearby communities who face similar issues,” she said.

Source: FCDP