The picture above shows a woman in India who just recently received a WaterCredit loan. During my latest trip to Bangalore this year, I had the chance to visit several families and communities who had taken out WaterCredit loans through Water.org’s programs in India. Our first stop was in a rural town about an hour away from Bangalore where many families (including the local school) had not had access to reliable and improved water sources or toilets for years. Most residents in this area earn between $1.00 to $3.00 a day, and sometimes less.
I will never forget one of the first families I met that day who had just recently taken out a WaterCredit loan to pay for the construction of a water connection and a toilet in their home. The woman, shown in the picture on the right, was holding her baby and showing us where they had built the water connection, and toilet in their house. The pride, honor and genuine happiness with which this woman shared her story and highlighted how these basic services had transformed her family’s life really humbled and struck me. It opened my eyes and further reinforced that those living in poverty do not want to be treated as victims. They want a hand-up not a hand out. They want to be able to design their own future, make decisions for themselves.
As she stood next to her husband and young son, you couldn’t help but notice the excitement with which they participated in this discussion. While hard to describe in words, it is truly such a profound and life changing experience to see a family gain access to safe water and proper sanitation for the first time in their lives. The woman shared that as a result of this WaterCredit loan, she no longer had to waste hours (up to 3 or 4 a day) looking for some water source for her family to survive. She and her children also no longer needed to put themselves at risk by defecating remotely outside in the middle of the night.
For most families in this community, having no water connection at home means walking for miles to find some distant water source that is either at risk of water scarcity or contamination. For women and young girls who have no toilets, it means risking your life to find a place to defecate outside at night, or risk humiliation in the middle of the day, as others can see you. Can you even imagine living under those circumstances? I certainly can’t.
This woman we met in this rural community outside of Bangalore shared that by having a toilet and safe water at home, she was now less concerned about her children getting sick or her and her husband losing time that could be spent working or taking care of the family. Other women we met who had water connections at home as a result of taking out WaterCredit loans spoke of their new enterprises and their ability to now have a more sustainable, income-generating livelihood. The time these women saved by having water at home and the new options available to them by having access to formal financial services, allowed them to finally design a life for themselves and their families this is now filled with hope opportunities, versus one that is dependent on charity and giving cycles.