Women and Drought 101

Indian women filling water jugs

Three Grinnell students and associate professor of theatre Lesley Delmenico traveled to India last spring to learn more about social implications of drought.

Delmenico developed a theatre production about women and sustainable water issues in India. Students Sunanda Vaidheesh ’12, Morgan Bober ’12, and Jordan Levine ’10 are studying sociology and global development, human rights and sustainability, and political science, respectively. They all wanted to witness how a lack of water affects educational, economic, and vocational opportunities for women.

The four spent 10 days working with the Jai Bhagirathi Foundation, which deals with water management issues in the Thar Desert. Their destination was a village in west India that drought has devastated for 43 of the past 50 years.

The students shadowed village families and were in awe of the strength of the people there. “I am from India so I have the cultural context,” Vaidheesh said, “but I was surprised by what it means to be Indian in a rural village versus my own urban experience. We learned so much as they opened their door to us. ”

“We take so many things for granted that I appreciated the reality check,” Bober said. “They are so happy and live without all of the amenities we have. I was really inspired by the trip to do more development work on the ground.”

The Grinnellians found that drought is harder on women than men, since women are often those who must walk hours every day to fetch water. This keeps them out of school and from doing other activities.

The students received two directed research credits for the life-changing experience. But they say the biggest gain was the trip’s exposure, which intensified their interest in field development work. Bober will study in Ghana this fall and plans to work with high school students next spring to spread awareness of global issues through World Water Day.

“This trip inspired me for the greater good,” says Vaidheesh. “Good things can happen.”

Travel funds provided in part by the Center for International Studies.

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2010.

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