Fighting acute scarcity of water, around 300 women in Kerala decided to dig wells, an occupation dominated by men in the state. Women in northern Palakkad district of Kerala decided to become well-diggers to earn a living and solve the water crisis in the area. Even elderly women climbed down pits using makeshift bamboo ladders to dig wells with pickaxe and shovels. Determined to solve water issue in the district women did not let their age become a problem during the work. The women dug rocky areas with axes looking for water for the village.

Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) women aged between 35 and 70 years dug up over 190 wells across the village since last August. These villages have been facing scarcity as wells and small ponds are the only sources of water for the village. These homemakers did not let their lack of professionalism become a barrier to construct 10-12 meter deep wells alone.

Lakshmi, a 39-year-old from Punchappadam told PTI that she is proud she could complete the task and achieve success. She along with other women took up the job to ensure a steady income to support their family. PTI quoted Lakshmi as saying, “We did not know anything about well digging initially. But, we relied on our group effort and confidence. We gradually learned the basics of the work through our experience.”

Pookkottukavu which is around 40 km away from Palakkad town used to rely on lorries for drinking water during summer. But with these women’s initiative, the place has become self-sufficient in terms of water. K Jayadevan, president of Pookkottukavu panchayat said that while the first well looked like a pit they have now perfected the skill. He told PTI, “The first well, dug by a group of women, under the scheme looked like a pit. But, as they took up more wells, they have perfected. The latest ones, made by them, are really structural marvels. This transition is the proof of empowerment attained by these village women.” Indian Air Force’s motivational video for women pilots breaks gender stereotypes and how! (Watch Video)

It was the panchayat who encouraged the women that they could do take up well digging as a job. While most of them were not sure in the beginning, gradually they agreed. Some of them were told that it is a predominantly male profession however they took it up. However, Jayadevan also said that under MGNREGS while a skilled male well-digger gets Rs 700-1000 as daily wage for digging a well, a woman worker would get only Rs 240. (Image- Manorama Online)