Strength is not optional for women like Hira

Water, sanitation & hygiene article written on the 01 May 2018

Every day, Hira hauls at least 300 litres of dirty water across harsh terrain for her family — each day is a test of strength.

Hira lives in the mountainous Baitadi region of Nepal, where three in four people don’t have enough water. Each day, the 45-year-old mother trudges up and down steep mountain trails, hauling water for her family’s essential needs.

“I go to collect water seven to eight times a day,” Hira says. “I need enough for the animals, for using the toilet, for drinking, for taking a bath, for growing food and for the whole family.”

“I carry 40 to 50 litres each time.”

“The water is so dirty … But what is there to do? We have to drink this water. We have no choice.”

“We also go to collect water in the middle of the night,” Hira explains, “because in the daytime the water [from the well] is not sufficient for all of us.”

Carrying this much water every day causes Hira pain

Carrying water is backbreaking work

Day and night, back and forth — Hira’s life is one long, backbreaking search for water.

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“It’s so cold outside at night, and waking up and doing this much work in a day is very hard for me. Because the water is very cold and my back and whole body are in so much pain from carrying it back in the night — it makes me feel really sick.”

In Baitadi, temperatures can drop to near freezing at night — still, she perseveres.

“Every time, it gives me pains in the stomach, in my breasts, my back and my bones. I don’t know what sicknesses are called because I am not that educated, but that is where it hurts all the time.”

“When there is no water in this well, I went to another source … I took a bath in that water and five minutes after the bath it started to make a kind of pimply rash over my whole body.

“That affected me for one month … that water was so dirty.”

The water that Hira collects is dirty and unsafe

Hira dreams of clean water

The lack of safe drinking water in Baitadi leaves nine in ten children grappling with frequent bouts of diarrhoea — for many, it can be life-threatening.

“My son gets sick with things like a fever, a cold and sometimes skin problems and diarrhoea from the water.”

Hira wants a better life for her children. “I don’t want the younger generation to suffer like us, like I have suffered my whole life here,” she says.

Hira can barely imagine how life would be with clean water on tap.

“That day will be in another life for us,” she says. “To see access to clean water, from that day, our life would change forever.

“I have a big dream that if we had one tap for four families, or even a tap for every family, it would be a new life.”

No family can thrive without clean water. That’s why Oxfam is on the ground in Nepal, working to provide clean, safe water and sanitation for women like Hira and their families. 

But we need your help. You can donate today to help give clean water to families in Nepal.

Donate to help give clean water in Nepal

Your donation is essential to help Oxfam provide vital clean water to families in Nepal.

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Photos: Abbie Trayler-Smith/OxfamAUS