WaterWomen [Update 22/12_Final version]
WaterWomen focuses on empowering women and youth of urban slum communities in Jaipur (India) to take control over their water resources.
Preparation of the "observing-module": The women and youth are showing great interest in the field work.
Typical street scene in the study area with open drains (picture taken by a woman during the user camera study).
Community leader with her daughter.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
In many Indian slums, water supply is not sufficient in quantity and quality. Climate change, urbanization and population growth will make the situation more pressing. Through research in slum communities in Jaipur, we have learned that a lack of knowledge and expertise leads to water-related problems such as wastage of water, illegal pipeline connections, practicing open defecation upstream of drinking water production wells, thinking in limited ways (temporal and spatial).
Our idea is to create an educational piece with four interactive audio-visual modules, e.g. “movie on the road”, to enable women to understand and assess the water and sanitation situation in their communities:
1)Understanding: Climate change, local geology, the urban water cycle & how human actions influence the local water situation.
2)Observing: How to measure important water quality & quantity parameters.
3)Data management: Why it is important & how to apply it for water sampling campaigns.
4)Assessing: Simple ways to plot data & to make a first assessment of the situation.
A lack of capacity in terms of time, media access and confidence of the slum dwellers requires a concise, entertaining and simple solution.
As a second step, we are planning to develop a guideline tool titled “How to solve your local water problems: Guidelines to the implementation of simple solutions” which will be based on the experience gained. This will empower women to take action against deteriorating water resources.
For a start, two urban slum communities in Jaipur would benefit, as we are going to prototype our solution there. After an evaluation phase, we plan to expand it to other areas in India. The overall community benefit is an improved water supply. Furthermore, especially women will profit from this project because their newly gained knowledge will enhance their confidence and strengthen their role within the community (see attachment: UserExperienceMap_WaterWomen).
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
Climate change affects water resources. Changing rainfall patterns can lead to decreasing groundwater recharge, flood events are more likely to occur and surface water bodies are subject to increasing evaporation losses. All cases have impacts on the quantity and quality of water resources. Urban slums are the most affected places as they do not have the financial and technical capacity to react to decreasing groundwater tables and they are often located in flood prone areas. Identifying how climate change specifically affects the water resources of a certain area will enable communities to either implement measures (e.g. recharge structures to maximize groundwater resources) to counteract the consequences or to demand concrete action from the municipality.
We are collaborating with an Indian grassroots NGO, which has been working with women and youth in slums in 14 Indian cities for over 20 years. We therefore have close contact to women community groups in the pilot areas and can build on existing structures. Based on interviews and the application of human-centered design tools, e.g. shadowing and photo essays, we identified the women’s perception of water problems. In addition, we introduced our project to official stakeholders (water supplier, regional groundwater board) during our field research and we plan to intensify these contacts in the future.
We believe that with a participatory water management based on sound hydrogeological understanding we can obtain sustainable, flexible and resilient solutions in terms of environmental and social aspects.
Yes, for two or more years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
We are an interdisciplinary team consisting of a creative director with UI/UX background, who is managing a global team of designers, a psychologist focusing on user-research and psychological aspects of design and three hydrogeologists with work experience in Raipur, Delhi, Chennai and Jaipur.
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
WaterWomen is a novel idea we developed during a workshop in India held by the Indian grassroots NGO "Mahila Housing Trust" (MHT) with whom we are cooperating. Our approach is to bring together people with different backgrounds, so that all aspects of community water problems can be dealt with by an expert of the respective subject area.
The participatory approach, in this case focused on women, is new for us but is the specialty of our Indian partners. The hydrogeological perspective is new for our partner NGO but is, of course, the specialty of our team. Furthermore, our team includes a designer and a psychologist with considerable experience in design-thinking. This set-up enables our team to develop a human-centered design approach for a participatory community-based water management.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
One would never go to court without a trained lawyer, and one would never board an airplane without a trained pilot. However, it is common practice to tackle water problems without consulting a trained water expert.
Hydrogeologists are “groundwater experts”, who understand the distribution, flow and quality of groundwater, surface water-groundwater and sediment-groundwater interactions. They can set up conceptual and numerical groundwater flow and transport models, which help to predict the development of water quality and quantity. Based on this, hydrogeologists develop sustainable water management concepts for different scenarios (see Workplan_Jaipur).
To date, most organizations working on water issues at community level do not include hydrogeological investigations. Large organizations (NGOs, Development Agencies) that have hydrogeologists in their team do not work at community level but often concentrate on governance. Classical hydrogeology projects remain at a technical stage and do not consider social aspects. WaterWomen works on a community level connecting (ground)water experts, social scientists and community members creating a link that so far has been neglected.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
Assessing the local geology is a difficult task, but absolutely necessary to understand the groundwater scenario, which is strongly linked to the overall water situation. Therefore, the first interactive module “understanding” (see the first question) plays a critical role in all following tasks. It is important to find out which degree of complexity is still suitable for our target group. Choosing the best medium for the modules is crucial for teaching this complex matter in an entertaining manner. The degree of complexity and the choice of medium are therefore the central questions.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
Most poor communities have water problems. On the one hand, deteriorated water comes from the tap, well or water tanker. This is the starting point for many projects that aim at improving water supply. On the other hand, people do not have access to sanitation infrastructure. Constructing community/individual toilets is the end point of many projects aiming at improving sanitation. However, to find sustainable solutions for water problems, the impacts on the water resources caused by water abstraction and of sanitation measures have to be considered, especially in the face of climate change. Existing concepts, therefore, start one step too late and end one step too early.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
We got feedback from the target communities through detailed interviews with five women, four camera user studies and one shadowing-day. After the feedback phase we had several aha moments:
1) We recognized that most women have mobile phones but no smartphones. Therefore, solutions requiring mobile applications or mobile data connections are not suitable for the target group. When designing for the younger generation, an educational mobile application might be appropriate because some young people already have smartphones.
2) Time is very precious, and the women have little free time. The more related to the women’s daily life and the more entertaining, the more effective our training might be.
3) The target group is not willing to pay for groundwater.
4) There is a strong need for communication between official water supplier and community.
The feedback showed us that our modules should not be internet-based as we had planned. Furthermore, we have seen how little time the women have, which is a new challenge for the design of our modules. The obvious need for communication with officials has strengthened our confidence in our approach because empowering women in water issues will be a good way to start fruitful and constructive discussions between the supplier and the community.
Woman taking a picture with the single use camera to show her point of view concerning water issues in her community.
Picture taken by a slum woman showing a solid waste disposal site with cows directly next to a bore well (red arrow) for drinking water abstraction.
Interview with a woman in her house: Draw something that makes you happy!
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
We want to initiate change at four levels:
1)The water situation in the target communities should improve in quality and quantity. This can be achieved by protecting the water resources against contamination and using them in a sustainable way.
2)In case the pilot studies are successful, the application of the modules should be promoted at other locations.
3)We want to show organizations who are planning water projects that it makes sense to involve hydrogeologists in their projects.
4)As natural scientists, we want to understand the behavior and needs of communities to be able to develop solutions that will be accepted and are applicable at a community level (see Workplan_WaterWomen).
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
Our main partner is MHT, an Indian grassroots NGO working in 14 cities in India, one of them being Jaipur. For the past 20 years they have been educating and empowering women community leaders from urban slums. Through their work they have created an awareness of water issues in many communities. We can connect to their structures and supply water expertise and hydrogeological background to support their work and achieve a holistic approach to making communities resilient.
We established first contacts to the city’s water supplier to include them in the project and create a trustful working atmosphere. We are keeping them informed about the progress and will cooperate with them closely. Our first meeting was successful and very promising.
Furthermore, we cooperate with initiatives outside Jaipur. It is planned to use water testing kits designed by the NGO “Development Alternatives”. For scientific exchange we are connected to the Indian Institute of Public Health in Gandhinagar.
Typical Focused Group Discussion of our partner NGO with women from slum communities.