Bicycles for 70 girls on International Women’s Day

As part of International Women’s Day, WaterHarvest and our partner GRAVIS are providing girls in the remote Thar desert with bicycles so they can attend senior school, just like their brothers.

When faced with limited resources, families are often forced to choose which children will go to school and they typically choose the boys. This leaves girls, who don’t live within walking distance of a senior school, stuck at home and unable to complete their education, due to the simple problem of not being able to get to school. A bicycle enables a girl to finish their education and also gives them a sense of freedom and independence.

    

Freed from the drudgery of fetching water

Building underground water tanks has been a core project for WaterHarvest since it began. These tanks catch the monsoon rainwater and store it for use throughout the year giving clean and clear water at the doorstep of the home. This saves women and girls from the daily drudgery of walking to fetch water – often for seven hours a day – equalling around 70,000 miles in a year.  With water on the doorstep, women have time for work and girls are free to go to school. However, on a recent field visit, one of our partners raised the issue that some of the girls in our programme had to leave school at 14 simply because the senior school was too far to walk to. Put simply, they just couldn’t get to the school.

Bicycles for girls  

The easiest and cheapest way for girls to get to school was with a bicycle – just like their brothers. Faced with a choice of who to send to school, families will nearly always choose boys. Most families in the Thar desert do not have enough money to buy a bicycle for all their children. As a result, the girls are left at home. From within our programme, seventy girls were identified who couldn’t afford a bicycle and had therefore dropped out of school. These girls were provided with bicycles by WaterHarvest earlier today as part of International Women’s Day.

Listening to the communities

To make sure we are really listening to the communities, WaterHarvest asks partners to submit ideas for how we could enhance our programmes. These are typically small ‘add on’ programmes which work in conjunction with the existing programme. These ideas are then reviewed by us and approved ideas are supported. In addition to the proposal to provide bicycles for girls to attend senior school, other innovative ideas were also proposed such as larders to keep vegetables fresh for market, solar powered pumps and fences to protect irrigated crops from animals.

More than just a bicycle

As the American women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony, famously said “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” Giving a girl in the Thar desert a bike isn’t just a means for them to go to school but it gives them a sense of freedom and, more importantly, the message that their education also matters.

This week’s blog was written by Nicola Floyd on 8th March 2019. Nicola is currently interim CEO and a trustee of WaterHarvest. She is lives in Wiltshire in the UK.  Prior to working in the development sector, she worked in investment banking in Hong Kong, New York, Bangkok and London.

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