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“Since the trainings, I feel I have become more capable and efficient. My roles and responsibilities have changed, and the trainings have provided me the opportunity to understand my potential. Now I can confidently put forward my opinion in front of the community people, who give me respect. These hands that held the sickle to cut grass and the digging implements to toil the field are now accustomed to the pipe cutter, hitting plate and the wrench. Balkumari Maski, a maintenance caretaker doing her dishes at homeI have learnt to manage my time away from household chores for the community work. People come to fetch me whenever they identify a water supply related problem in the community. Together with them, I visit the source to check the problem and fix it. When water starts flowing again they express joy. I am very happy to do something that was supposedly called a man’s work.”

These are the words of Balkumari Maski, a maintenance caretaker of the Koiralachula Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project at Surkhet district’s Salkot VDC ward no. 3. In this project supported by AusAID in Nepal and implemented by Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH), Balkumari was selected and trained as a maintenance caretaker along with two other men.

Balkumari on her dutyAs her husband is in India for employment, she has been managing the household chores and at the same time attending actively to the project activities. Regular operation of the water supply systems, participation in the regular committee meetings and providing necessary information to visitors has become part of her day-to-day activities.

Balkumari says the confidence in handling these activities would not have come without the training. She is a role model for many other women in the community.

Kousila Thapa, vice-chairperson of the WASH users committee says Balkumari’s example shows that a training opportunity can motivate people to demonstrate their true potential.

“Since the formation of the users committee, when we started involving women in various trainings, it built up their self confidence and boosted their morale. The trained male maintenance caretakers informed us that they would not be staying in the community. There was no point hiring male maintenance caretakers from other communities so we handed Bal Kumari Maski this responsibility. From then, she has been efficiently performing her duty. The committee pays her Rs. 300/month. Her work is no less than that of other maintenance caretakers in neighboring villages. It may seem like an ordinary task for communities who can afford highly skilled maintenance caretakers but for a community like ours, Balkumari’s efforts are extraordinary.”Balkumari checking the Reservoir Tank (RBT)

Reminiscing about her past Balkumari says, “Before, women were never part of any mass meetings in the community. Every decision was made by male members without consulting us. Our daily duty was to take care of the family members and the household activities. My perceptions, skills and self-confidence have improved since my involvement in the project activities. Pipe cutting is an easy job for me now. I have earned fame and money through my hard-work in this village. I am delighted that those same people who said our role was worthless are now appreciating the contribution of women.”

A total of 45 households belonging to different castes and ethnic groups live together at Koiralachula WASH project where two intakes, eight distribution tanks and 15 water taps are already constructed. These infrastructures are regularly maintained and updated by Balkumari Maski. She is also trying to bring other women like her to the forefront.

Written by: Bharat Prasad Bhatta
Documentation and Advocacy Assistant,
NEWAH, Mid and Far Western Regional Office, Nepalgunj
Case Study Award Winner: August 2011 

Source: Stories from the Field, NEWAH's Publication 2011. 
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