There is an urgent need to create mechanisms to empower widows in Yavatmal and Vidarbha, and give them the support they need to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. However, such initiatives are rare. One of the few such projects for the welfare of the helpless women is run by Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and its sister organization Sampada Trust.
As I descended from Pune-Nashik highway into Sattechiwadi (located at the foothills of Baleshwar-Sahyadri range), I had the distinct feeling of leaving the outer world. I thought about what would happen if one of us urbanites had to live here- no, I wouldn’t be able to do it.
After going about 4 kilometres down I could see three micro-hamlets. They are for the three different tribes who populate Sattechiwadi – the Thakars, Bhills and Kolis and there was a temple of Mata Satteaai (Goddess Satteaai), from where Sattechiwadi gets its name. Sattechiwadi is a tribal hamlet with 83 households. . Those 4 kilometres represented more than just physical distance they were the distance between sustainability and consumerism, the distance between various half hearted government attempts to develop and their untouched beneficiaries. However, half the hike down and things start getting clearer. A picturesque landscape starts welcoming you, with a calm and soothing balance in place. You reach there and you see that change is a tangible attribute.
After my welcome drink (I think it was made of sugar only), I went for a walk and decided to sit under a tree in the School compound, as I could see a bunch of kids playing there. In the school there was a drinking water tank (Implemented under the WOTR-Arghyam drinking water and sanitation project). I decided to gulp some down. The moment I got up a couple of kids asked me, how was the water? I replied with a smile and we became instant friends.
Right next to the school stood an Ice-cream man, who rides his decrepit scooter 25 kilometres from Sangamner every day. The first question to surface from my head was, how would he manage to preserve the huge box of ice-creams if the scooter refused to start? As I contemplated possible answers he brought my question from theoretical to practical: My scooter broke down, he said.
It’s not a big deal, he said. Had it been some other hamlet across the mountain it would have been a problem, considering the distance from the road and the facilities around. But here I can retire easily as there are enough people to buy my goods, plus basic necessities like drinking water and toilets and it’s a lot safer now as everyone has their productive shares of work.
Sattechiwadi didn’t always have such amenities. It used to be a deserted village for almost 10 months per year, as the land was good for agriculture only during monsoon and a lot of people used to migrate to nearby towns in search of work. But since watershed development started here in 2005 the picture has changed.
Things were difficult in the past, when little to no water was available. The agriculture practised used to give produce hardly sufficient for individuals and hence there was absolutely no money being raised from the prime vocation.
Water – through WOTR – brought life to Sattechiwadi. The ground water level has increased and now the land is good for cash crops also; onions hanging from the roof indicate the same. Through the WOTR’s WASUNDHRA Approach the Satteaai village development committee was formed to look after the watershed development, while receiving active participation from women as well as men. Micro-enterprises of the Women’s SHGs augment incomes of the families. Back-yard Poultry, leaf-plate making is now taken up in earnest by the women of the village. Hot-water chullahs ensure daily, personal hygiene and health to the village. The school sanitation program has ensured that the school is not a breeding ground of diseases. The hike up is not a difficult job anymore as almost 56 out of 83 households have motorbikes.
Now, Sattechiwadi has its own balance and everything is in place, the kids are at school and people in the farms. The happy faces around can tell you that water definitely gives life.