For most of us, access to water is as simple as turning on a tap. For 10 communities in Tharparkar, Pakistan, gathering water needed for the day meant hard work. On average, three members from a household – usually women – would spend three to five hours a day fetching water from wells. Gathering water takes a toll, both mental and physical – with wells at least three kilometres away from communities, and the physical exertion required to pull water by hand from a distance of 250 to 300 metres.

The Canadian Red Cross, together with the Pakistan Red Crescent, responded by taking an innovative approach using solar-powered water pumps. This provided simpler and easier access to water to people in the community. In 2018, a survey was conducted that showed close to 94% of those who were surveyed were using the solar-powered wells, about with 71% saying that water collection was now only taking them 30 minutes or less a day.

The success of this project lies in the Community Engagement and Accountability approach. Community Engagement and Accountability means that the communities where the work is being done is at the very centre of the work itself – and diverse members of the community play key roles. This helps make sure the work that is being done is the work that is needed, builds trust between Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the men and women they are working with, and helps support the sustainability of a project. This approach also helps to build more resilient communities, because it provides the tools for them to respond to needs – such as the maintenance of these solar-powered wells – and also works to address underlying risks and vulnerabilities – such as the physical and mental toll those responsible for gathering water were experiencing.

This project has now been handed over to members of community-based organizations who had been tasked with having conversations with villagers about the project from the beginning. These organizations worked to make sure people had the ability to provide feedback about the project and were given special training. Another task for these organizations was to find both women and men in these communities who could serve on health and maintenance committees.  Handing over projects like this is important, because it helps ensure the project is sustainable and the ownership is local.

This project was made possible through support from the Government of Canada.

Improving access to water means improving the lives of women and girls in rural Pakistan