Hi! A chemical engineer by education; I have been a water and wastewater treatment professional for last 24 years. Having started career at Ion Exchange (I) ltd; Mumbai in 1996, I moved to Singapore and worked with Hyflux and Chartered Semiconductor Mfg Ltd for around 5 years before moving back to India and starting on my own as “Nixie Engineers Pvt Ltd”.
Srilekha is a young professional from India with a focus on WASH and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) advocacy with indigenous tribal women and girls.
Advocacy through art with rural communities
She is driven by her close experience with how in poor, rural areas, discussions on gender, menstrual hygiene and women’s health take a back seat. In many of her activities, she is using art to demystify taboos with adolescents and youth.
An example of what this type of approach can lead to is the story of two young girls – Zeba and Anjum – who made a model of a uterus with Gulmohar flowers during an art session that Srilekha conducted. The red colour symbolizes power, strength and period blood whereas the blooming flower represents good health.
Another art project of Srilekha links to the flagship campaign of the Central Government of India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which promised to bring ‘Comprehensive Sanitation and Hygiene’ amongst people in rural India. However, the wall writings on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan have been speaking about toilet construction and cleanliness only. There were no wall writings about menstruation to encourage people to challenge the taboo. So, Srilekha mobilised artists and communities for a ‘menstruation matters’ mural project. You can read more about this project in her blog here.
Engaging local government and global platforms in period talk
Whereas engaging with communities is at the heart of her work, she also recognises the importance of government leadership. In 2019, she curated a campaign called Freedom to Bleed during the Independence Day in India. She convinced a local politician to help young girls actually experience freedom and independence from the stigma of blood. They reached out to more than 1000 women and girls in a week. The man speaking in the opening scene of the video below is the first political leader who ever spoke about periods in that constituency.
Srilekha is also dedicated to elevating stories from grassroots levels to as many people and platforms as possible. Through her #PeriodsPeCharcha (Let’s Talk Periods) campaign she addressed issues of indigenous remote communities in Jharkhand, a state in eastern India. In this video, she talks about menstrual hygiene challenges faced by young girls in the area.
About winning the Ton Schouten Award for WASH storytelling
In the words of our selection committee members – Vida Duti, Liduin Schouten, Sean Furey and Dave Trouba – Srilekha seems to do her communications work purely driven by passion and heart to help others, she naturally focuses on social inclusion and uses a wide variety of channels and forms of communication, from social media messages to videos and blogs.
In the words of Srilekha? See this video or read her response below it.
It is interesting that I win this award in a time that is technically one of the darkest of all we have seen as a generation. This award comes to me as a hope that there is a lot of work that is left to do and the show must go on! It will help me continue my fight on the ground.
I would like to thank all the organisations and mentors and the community people who supported me throughout my journey and made me someone worthy to receive this award, I am honoured and it will take some time to sink in.
While there’s a lot of fund-crunch that civil society organisations at the grassroots level are going through and projects on women’s health are receiving a severe blow, I wish to use this award money to reach out to the most vulnerable section of adolescents and youth and keep creating more art, storytelling and workshops on menstruation. Because periods don’t stop for pandemics and neither should our activism. – says Srilekha.
We received a rich and inspiring selection of candidates, whom we’re hoping to continue to be in touch with throughout the year. Keep an eye on this page dedicated to all things Ton Schouten Award for information about the award and updates on the work of talented young communicators in the WASH community. Srilekha has shared some great ideas about what she is planning to invest her award prize in. We will also share updates on her activities on this page. So stay tuned.
en McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.
by Rupert Talbot (former UNICEF and past Chair of HTN/RWSN)
Ken McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.
The Government of India’s fourth, five year development plan (1969-1974) envisaged the ambitious goal of providing drinking water in the hard rock, drought prone regions of the country, using innovative down-the-hole-hammer drilling and deep well hand pump technology. Drill rigs were to be imported by Unicef and locally made, cast iron hand pumps, supplied and maintained by Government. In 1974, at the end of the plan period, hand pump surveys concluded that 75% of some 40,000 installations were not working. The viability of drilling and hand pump technology was in question and there was the real prospect of UNICEF, the Government of India’s main partner, withdrawing support. The programme was in serious crisis.
Water well drilling was virgin territory for Unicef in the early 1970s and Unicef’s Executive Board had been divided over the decision to invest in such costly technology in the first place. It was now faced with the hard option of either scrapping the programme or keeping faith. It was a close run thing. Fortunately, the ‘pro’ lobby won with the eminently wise decision to halt the supply of drill rigs until the hand pump problem was fixed. Which is where Ken McLeod comes in.
Ken was a pragmatic, no–nonsense, straight talking, tell-it-as-it-is Australian with a diverse engineering background which ranged from marine and civil engineering to blast hole and water well drilling with down-the-hole-hammers. He had an innate sense of what would probably work and what wouldn’t. Obstinacy was also a hallmark. A serious asset as it turned out. Once he had made up his mind it was difficult to persuade him otherwise. And he had a droll sense of humour. His repertoire of stories and anecdotes are legendary within the water well fraternity. It would seem that seriousness of purpose combined with good humour are prerequisites for successful development enterprises. Ken had both these qualities in spades.
Over the course of the next 4 years it fell to Ken to identify, coordinate, argue with and cajole, myriad organisations and individuals to develop what became known as the India MK II hand pump. This was an extraordinarily complex, collaborative venture, involving pioneering NGOs in Maharashtra, birth place of the fabricated steel Jalna, Jalvad and Sholapur pumps, spearheaded by Raj Kumar Daw and Oscar Carlson (names participants in the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development Forum will be familiar with); WHO, who were independently trying to develop their own cast iron ‘Bangalore Pump’; The Government of India, whose programme was in dire straits and who were being prevailed upon by the country-wide hand pump industry to continue with the supply of their cast iron products (‘junk pumps,’ in McLeod Speak); and an engineering enterprise, Richardson and Cruddas, a Government of India undertaking tasked with making prototype and then production pumps. It took a McLeod to handle all of that.
It is getting on for 50 years since it was eventually agreed by all parties that the Sholapur pump would form the basis of a new design and we were able to make and test the first dozen prototypes under the deep water table conditions of Coimbatore, Southern India. The fact that the India MK II then went successfully into mass production was largely due to Ken’s clarity of vision, direction, smart technical choices and perseverence.
I spoke with Ken for the last time two weeks before he died. We talked of those heady days of trying to get the MK II programme off the ground, of the internal arguments, external battles and technical problem solving in the field and in the factory.
His voice was strong and his mind as clear as a bell as he recalled people, places and events in great detail and he spoke warmly of those free spirits with their out of the box thinking who strove to make better hand pumps.
He was amazed to learn that there are now several million MK IIs in India alone and that it is exported to 40 or more countries. But hugely disappointed that the third party quality assurance procedures set up in his day and honed over the years to become the corner stone of the MK II programme under Ken Gray, had been allowed to slide back and that MK II look-a-like ‘junk pumps’ are being exported from India to Africa. That, we agreed, is a great tragedy.
There were many brilliant, dedicated people involved in the development of the India MK II. Ken never claimed any credit for it himself, but we all know who led the charge. It wouldn’t have happened without him. He was the right man in the right place at the right time. It needed his force of personality, tough and uncompromising ways, solid understanding of technical issues and absolute determination to get the job done in the face of industrial strength, bureaucratic wranglings. Aussie grit personified.
After Unicef, Ken McLeod worked with Shaul Arlossoroff and his UNDP-World Bank Hand Pumps Project, initially based in Nairobi then out of Australia, spending much of his time in China where I have no doubt he brought the same skills and energy to bear as he did in India.
Pragmatic and stoic to the very end he told me he hadn’t got long and was resigned to being on the ‘home stretch’ as he called it.
No funeral for Ken. No grave, no head stone, no epitaph. He wanted none of that. Instead, he has the lasting legacy of the India Mark II hand pump itself. Millions of them in fact.
India is turning its back on the handpump and is going full bore for piped water supplies.
India is turning its back on the world’s most popular handpump to which it lent its name (India Mark II) and is going full bore for piped water supplies.
The Times of India report : “With more than 80% rural households yet to get piped water supply, the government on Tuesday announced to roll out a new mission to ensure “Nal se Jal” ater from the tap) for each house in villages in the next five years as promised in BJP’s election manifesto.”
This promises to be the most ambitious rural water supply programme in the world and this important transition from point source to piped will be watched with interest by many other countries around the world.
Making water work for women – inspiring stories from around the world
The reality in much of the world today is that collecting water for the home is a job done by women – so gender issues are central to everything we do in rural water supply – self-supply, pump design, borehole siting, tariff collection, water resource management, business models or using ICT to improve service delivery.
In this week’s webinar we have brought together more inspiring stories from Nicaragua, India and the World Bank. We are taking ‘gender’ from being a tokenistic tick-box to a living, vibrant, practical core of every rural water service.
Join the us next Tuesday 23 May – it an opportunity to have your practical and policy questions answered from world class experts.
L’eau au service des femmes – des histoires inspirantes
La réalité dans beaucoup d’endroits dans le monde aujourd’hui est que l’approvisionnement en eau pour les besoins domestiques reste un travail porté par les femmes – donc les questions liées au genre sont au coeur de toutes les activités que nous entreprenons dans le secteur de l’eau rurale: auto-approvisionnement, conception des pompes, emplacement des forages, recouvrement des tariffs, gestion des ressources en eau, ou utiliser les TIC pour améliorer les services.
Le webinaire de la semaine permettra d’entendre des histoires intéressantes du Nicaragua, de l’Inde et de la Banque Mondiale. Nous souhaitons passer d’une compréhension de la notion de genre se bornant à cocher une case, pour mettre en avant les aspects vivants, pratiques et essentiels qui font partie de tous les services d’eau ruraux.
Joignez-vous à nous mardi prochain – ce sera l’occasion de poser vos questions sur la pratique et la politique à des experts du domaine.
Vous n’avez pas pu participer à la première partie de ce wébinaire? Vous pouvez écouter des expériences inspirantes du Burkina Faso, de l’Inde, de l’Ethiopie, et du Bangladesh sur la chaine viméo du RWSN:
Community rural water supply (RWS) in India is an orphan of partially implemented demand responsive sector reforms on the one hand and unsuccessful decentralisation on the other. Historically, rural water supply in India has been outside the sphere of governments (NRDWP 2013). The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment (Act 1992) made drinking water and sanitation a constitutional mandate of the three tier system of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs). Even after two decades, the decentralisation process is an unaccomplished dream lying between de-concentration and devolution. In many states the progress is either stalled or reversed.
Sagar is an island at the mouth of the river Ganges where it meets the Bay of Bengal. Every year in January, about half a million pilgrims visit the island to worship at the holy Ganges. The hundreds of mobile toilet units standing on the empty festival terrain during the rest of the year are witness to the island’s authority’s efforts to ensure that the pilgrim’s stay on the island is as comfortable, hygienic and safe as possible. But the authorities also don’t forget about the 200.000 permanent inhabitants when it comes to sanitation. Together with the NGO Water For People (WFP) and other partners, it seeks to achieve full coverage in sanitation and water supply in the next few years.
In the mid 1960s, drought ravaged India, and the Government of India asked UNICEF for help with improving access to water through borehole drilling. In the following years, the emergency drilling campaign evolved into a broader national programme to improve rural water supplies, but the attention was focused on the drilling and the boreholes. No one gave the hand-pumps that went on them much thought. That all changed in 1974.