Investing in Women: Accelerating Progress through Rainwater Harvesting

As the world marks International Women’s Day 2024 under the theme “Investing in Women: Accelerating Progress,” I am reminded of the transformative power of empowerment and collaboration, particularly in the realm of Rainwater Harvesting (RWH).

For many years, I have been a vocal advocate of rainwater harvesting and the opportunities it can provide to disadvantaged women with limited access to water. Being an active member of organisations like the South Asia Rainwater Network (SARNET) and the IWA Specialist Group on Rainwater Harvesting has provided me with excellent platforms to share the success and impact that I have witnessed throughout my involvement in RWH projects.  

Working as a project officer on various RWH projects in South Asia has allowed me to witness first-hand the profound impact of RWH on the lives of women in communities. RWH can bring many benefits, such as easy access to water, relieving water stress, and time saving so that women can engage in income generation or educational activities instead of having to fetch water for their household. 

My work on rainwater harvesting began with a visit to the Majhkot community in 2010, a rural enclave nestled in the Kaski District of Nepal. Having grown up with an awareness of RWH thanks to my father’s involvement in similar projects, this visit marked a pivotal moment as I directly witnessed the tangible benefits of RWH systems. Meeting rural women like Ratan Kumari Gurung, whose life had been profoundly changed by access to rainwater in the past 8 years, underscored the importance of our work in alleviating water scarcity and improving livelihoods.  

Despite the challenges posed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rain Communities project which started in 2019, implemented by Kanchan Nepal (KN) and the International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA), persisted in its mission to bolster the resilience of rural communities. We improved the RWH system with pond restoration and reforestation campaigns, therefore enhancing water availability and management of natural resources. After 10 years working on this project, I met again Ratan Kumari Gurung, who had now been using rainwater for 18 years. Her commitment and lifechanging experience serves as an inspiration for others to embrace rainwater. We nicknamed Ratan the ‘Rain Lady’ since she was the only member of the community who solely used rainwater and stopped collecting water from the spring source since the introduction of the RWH system, and she did not suffer from any waterborne disease. We widely shared her story with the community to inspire action and promote rainwater use. 

Ratan Kumari Gurung and her RWH systems (2011 and 2021) in Majhkot Rain Community  

In 2021, the introduction of the Pumpkin-shaped RWH tank from Sri Lanka represented a significant milestone in our efforts to innovate and expand the reach of RWH technology. With the technical support of the Lanka Rainwater Harvesting Forum (LRWHF), female masons like Malkanthi played a pivotal role in transferring invaluable skills and knowledge across borders. Malkanthi visited Kanchan in Nepal and trained technicians in constructing the Pumpkin-shaped RWH tank. Malkanthi’s ability to overcome language barriers through her craftmanship and action serves as a testament to the power of women in driving progress and solving complex challenges. 

Malkanthi from Sri Lanka constructing the first Pumpkin-shaped RWH system in Nepal  

Amidst these endeavours, my involvement in organisations like SARNET and my designation as a Young Rainwater Champion (YRC) provided platforms for collaboration and knowledge exchange on a global scale. From conferences to technical trainings, each engagement reaffirmed the collective commitment to advancing RWH practices and empowering women in the process.


Second SARNET Conference and Technical Training in Sri Lanka  

The year 2023 marked a turning point in my journey as I became a member of the Management Committee of the IWA Specialist Group on Rainwater Harvesting, and participated in conferences championing the cause of rainwater harvesting. Collaborative efforts with organisations like Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH) and WaterAid Nepal, and the establishment of the Nepal Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (NRHA) further solidified our collective action to address water scarcity through innovative solutions. 

From meeting incredible women advocating for rainwater harvesting to getting inspired by women’s stories from the communities, this journey has so far been wonderful. This journey continues to be full of inspiration and opportunities to collaborate and work together for progressing RWH nationally, regionally and globally! 

As I reflect on this journey, I am reminded of the countless women whose stories have fuelled our passion and perseverance. Their resilience in the face of adversity showcases the transformative power of collaboration. As we commit to invest more in women to accelerate progress, let’s seize the opportunities provided by rainwater harvesting to empower women and elevate their skills and impact in their communities. Investing in rainwater harvesting is a sustainable and equitable way to invest in women and water for progress and development.

Sony Pun

Project Officer, Nepal
Sony Pun is a Project Officer in Kanchan Nepal. She has been actively promoting the rainwater harvesting in the rural communities of Nepal through the projects; Rain Communities, an Integrated Water Resource Management Project and Blue School Program... Read full biography