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Women’s Empowerment through Clean Water in J&K

In the picturesque region of Jammu & Kashmir, the Jal Jeevan Mission has not only quenched the thirst of rural households but also ignited the flame of empowerment among women

By Tauheed Ahmad

The Jal Jeevan Mission, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019, has been making significant strides in providing clean drinking water to rural households across India. One region that has experienced a remarkable transformation through this mission is Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The mission’s implementation in the region has not only improved access to clean drinking water but has also brought about a profound change in the lives of women in rural communities. Women’s Empowerment through Clean Water in J&K

Traditionally, women in rural areas of J&K have borne the burden of fetching water for their households. This daily chore required them to carry heavy loads over long distances from public water sources. Additionally, they faced the uncertainty of water quality, which often affected the health and well-being of their families. The Jal Jeevan Mission aimed to alleviate this burden, primarily benefiting women and young girls in the region.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the mission adopted a community-driven approach. It empowered Gram Panchayats and their sub-committees, such as Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSC)/ Pani Samitis/ User Groups, to take the lead in planning, implementing, and managing in-village water supply schemes. Notably, these committees ensured 50% representation of women and proportional representation of SCs/STs, enabling women to actively participate in critical decisions about their water supply.

The inclusion of women in VWSC/ Pani Samitis proved to be a game-changer. Women were the rightful managers of in-village water supply management, ensuring assured quality and quantity of water to each household. They took charge of regular water quality testing using specially developed Field Test Kits (FTKs), preventing water contamination and ensuring the portability of water supplied. The mission also provided training to women members in waterworks operation and maintenance, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge.

Women's Empowerment through Clean Water in J&K

As a result of their involvement in the Jal Jeevan Mission, women in J&K found a newfound sense of empowerment and direction. They not only managed household water needs but also engaged in technical challenges, such as pump operation, water governance, and water quality testing. This engagement paved the way for their participation in income generation opportunities, reduced school absences for girls, and improved health outcomes, as the burden of water drudgery lessened.

The Jal Jeevan Mission in J&K was not just about providing tap water connections to rural households; it was a mass movement involving the entire community. By decentralizing the implementation and administration, the mission engaged Gram Panchayats and Village Committees in managing local water supply infrastructure and collectively finding solutions to challenges.

The success of the mission was evident as it achieved 100% functional tap water connections in all schools and Anganwadi centers in J&K, well ahead of the set target. Moreover, the Jal Jeevan Mission has made remarkable strides in expanding access to clean drinking water to rural households in Jammu and Kashmir. Since its launch in 2019, the mission has successfully connected a substantial 56.71% of rural households to tap water by mid-2023, a significant increase from the mere 30.81% coverage that existed before the mission’s initiation. This transformation represents 732,941 households gaining access to clean drinking water, out of a total of 1,867,904 households in the region. The impact of the mission extends far beyond the statistics, as it has fundamentally improved the quality of life and opportunities for women and communities across J&K.

Furthermore, as of mid-2023, the Jal Jeevan Mission has achieved outstanding results in Jammu and Kashmir. Currently, 1598 villages have attained the remarkable milestone of cent percent household tap water connections. However, the mission is still diligently at work in 5153 villages, tirelessly striving to provide clean drinking water to every rural home.

In addition to these achievements, 6630 villages have successfully established Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSCs) and formulated comprehensive village action plans. These VWSCs play a pivotal role in local water supply management and have become a driving force behind the mission’s success. Moreover, 1875 villages have identified and trained human resources dedicated to the operation and maintenance of water infrastructure.

This extraordinary progress has been made possible through a concerted effort. Financially, the mission has demonstrated significant commitment, with the central share funds amounting to a total expenditure of 1183.20 crore, complemented by the state’s contribution of 71.97 crore. This cumulative expenditure of 1255.17 crore underscores the substantial investment made to transform water infrastructure and empower communities throughout Jammu and Kashmir.”

Despite the challenging terrain in J&K, the Jal Shakti Department working tirelessly to complete the mission’s targets ahead of time. They focused on source sustainability measures, such as rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, and grey-water management.

The Jal Jeevan Mission has not only democratized assured clean drinking water in J&K but has also empowered women, creating a ripple effect of positive change in rural communities. As the mission continues to progress, it brings hope to generations of villagers, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for all.

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