How a rainwater harvesting system in Bangladesh is changing women's lives

2 min read

The community of Kolbari are from an ethnic minority called Munda, who are extremely poor and often badly treated. The area where they live in southern Bangladesh has always been prone to heavy rainfall and flooding, and recently it's become more erratic. But since WaterAid and our local partner worked with the community to install a rainwater harvesting system in 2018, they've been able to move forwards and thrive together. 

Clean water has made a particularly big difference to the Munda women – I hope you'll enjoy reading some of their stories.

Komola stands on a dirt track in front of trees
Image: WaterAid

Komola, 23, is the caretaker of the new rainwater harvesting system.

“I was elected by the whole community, who believed I would be able to look after the system. Before it was built I undertook training in how to look after it, to tidy it, to clean it.”

Komola feels that having clean water has improved the community’s status. Before, she remembers, “other people felt disgusted sharing water with us, so it was hard to us to get water. People wouldn’t touch us and our children had to sit at the back of class.”

Health has improved too. Before, “almost everyone got a waterborne disease – diarrhoea, dysentery, stomach aches.” Now, Komola's medical expenses have reduced and she has more time for useful household chores and earning an income.

Sabita sits inside a room infront of a desk with a sewing machine
Image: WaterAid

Sabita, 30, is a tailor. Clean water has allowed her to take on more work, putting her nine months of training to good use earning an income that she’s putting into her children's education.

“We collect water five minutes walk from here. Before it used to take one to two hours to walk to collect water from other places.

“I would have liked to have completed my education but I hope my son and daughter can finish theirs. My unfulfilled dream can become fulfilled by my children.”

Munjuri crouches down with one of her children leaning against here
Image: WaterAid

Munjuri, 28, helps maintain the rainwater harvesting system. Clean water has given her the chance to spend more time with her children:

"The rainwater harvesting system has helped us drastically. I don’t have to walk far to collect water so I save time, I can look after the children. Also, the children are no longer at risk – before they sometimes fell in the pond. I can also help tutor the children at home as I have more time.”

Facing the challenges of an extreme climate is tough in this area of Bangladesh – but by harnessing the power of the rain, the people in Kolbari have a source of clean water they can rely on, whatever the weather. For Komola it means respect, for Sabita it means an income, for Munjuri it means time for her children. For all of them, it means life. Thank you so much for helping to make this vital work possible.