WaterAid asks women: ‘What does happiness mean to you?’

7 March 2018
Girls and women
Thumbnail WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

To mark International Women’s Day 2018, WaterAid asked eight women benefitting from their projects in Nepal and Pakistan what happiness and wellbeing now means to them. This uplifting new photo gallery, ‘Women and Water’, captures their feelings of optimism for the future and illustrates how cooperatives are enabling women to help themselves.

Women today are gaining recognition and respect on a global scale. With a lower profile, but just as crucially, thousands of women in some the poorest parts of the world are also transforming their lives. In Pakistan and Nepal, a new optimism is growing.

WaterAid’s projects are delivering not only vital access to clean water, toilets and hygiene, but also a chance for women to support each other through new finance cooperatives, funded through the HSBC Water Programme. Without the burden of spending hours collecting water, or trying to find somewhere safe to go to the toilet each day, women and girls now have the time and energy to focus on finding ways to earn a living, as this gallery reveals.

In the Sunsari village, Nepal, Radhika, 38, now has clean water in her home, and has built her own toilet. She first joined the women’s cooperative so she could buy a buffalo, and also now has a cow, allowing her to sell milk in her local market every day. With this extra income, she has been able to pay her three children’s school fees, and refurbished her home. 

Portrait of Tara Devi Chaudhary, 44, in front of her shop. Itahari, Sunsari, Nepal, January 2018.WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

Radhika’s dream is to open her own restaurant one day. She says: 
"For me, happiness is being surrounded by healthy family and friends in a clean environment. Wellness is being able to fulfil our inner desire of what we intend to do."

Pramila is just one of many mothers in the community who’ve taken control of their lives through this integrated water-with-benefits scheme. She works for the savings cooperative, making contact with communities, and helping them learn about hygiene as well as the benefits of carefully managing their money.

Pramila, 43, also from Sunsari, said:
“It is truly amazing to see how women from my village have grown. We have now become self-reliant, confident and independent. My understanding of wellness is a life with no stress, fear, pressure and distress of what might happen to you tomorrow.”

Har Sah, 48, also works for the women’s cooperative in Sunsari, as the treasurer. She now has a vegetable growing business, making money at the weekly market where she sells her produce. 

Sakuntala Chaudhary, 33, holding vegetables she has grown in her garden. Itahari, Sunsari, Nepal, January 2018.WaterAid/Mani Karmacharya

Mother of two daughters, Har Sah said:
“We can only be happy if we are healthy. Now I am healthy, I am able to go about my day, meet my friends and chat happily. If I am sick, I have to stay in bed, and not be happy at all.”

In the village of Chaoni, in Pakistan, Shazia is a teacher in the local school. Before this, she worked for one of WaterAid’s partners, encouraging her community to build toilets and places to wash within their homes. She feels that this role hugely improved her confidence levels, and gave her the ambition and confidence to teach. 

Shazia said: 
“For me, having a better life is being able to do something good for others. I don’t want it to be just me who progresses in life; I want to take others along as well. For women, I think that if they are confident and think they can grow, then they should not stay at home - they should progress in life!” 

In Pakistan, 79 million people have no decent toilet, and 22 million people don’t have clean water, consequentially nearly 19,500 children under five die each year from diarrhoea. Nepal, more than four in 10 people are without a decent toilet, and about 4 million are without clean water. Over 700 Nepalese children under five die from diarrhoeal diseases. 

The water, sanitation and hygiene education projects, integrated with the Women’s Savings and Credit Cooperatives schemes, are funded through the HSBC Water Programme. For more information please visit the WaterAid Global site here.

Please download gallery here

For more information, please contact:

In London: Lisa Martin, Senior Media Officer, [email protected]
or (0)20 7793 4524 or Suzy Vickers, PR Manager, [email protected] or +44 (0)207 793 4995

Or call our after-hours press line +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected] .

Notes to Editors:
for Pakistan and Nepal

The HSBC Water Programme was launched in 2012 as a collaborative partnership between WaterAid, WWF and Earthwatch. Originally a $100 million commitment, the programme's success in tackling water provision, protection, education and scientific research, led to its renewal in 2017. Now an eight-year $150 million programme, the impact of its work has been far-reaching: the HSBC Water Programme has provided 1.65 million people with clean water and 2.5 million with sanitation, in six focus countries across two continents. 

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 34 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit the global WaterAid site here, follow @wateraid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook here

  • 844 million people in the world – one in nine – do not have clean water close to home.[1]
  • 2.3 billion people in the world – almost one in three – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2] 
  • Around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]
  • Just £24 can provide one person with clean water.[5] 
  • To find out if countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see the online database www.WASHwatch.org