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The Pumps that Tulsi Builds

Tulsi explaining the need to keep the plinth
wet during the curing process

Tulsi Dagaura is explaining the setting process of concrete to Ram Kali Rana - the need to keep her pump plinth wet until 'cured' and the problems that the direct sunlight can cause. She exudes an air of confidence and people hang on her every word. Tulsi is the assistant trainer for the pump rehabilitation component of Mercy Corps' DAWN project, funded by Xylem, targeting safe sanitation and water supply to over 5,000 people in Western Nepal.

At 28 she is set to take over from her male lead, and there are many pumps still needing improving in the community of uBanara alone.

This is the village where Tulsi has lived for six years and has grown to call home. Like many in Banara, Tulsi was a Kamaiya, a bonded laborer and virtual slave to the household to whom she was attached to from birth. The position of Kamaiya's was only outlawed in 2006. Though initially shy, she was encouraged by the local community mobiliser, Rita Lekhak, to apply for a pump construction job. As Tulsi explained:

"I am still not totally confident in all the skills required, as previously I was only laboring and here I am supervising all of the work. Some simple things are still difficult, such as using tape measures and rules, as the numerals are not in Nepali and I have limited English skills". But as she builds her confidence she is sure she will be able to take on more complicated work and take on more difficult tasks. "An irrigation project has recently started nearby, run by a local NGO called NNSWA, so I applied for a job there too. For the first time I was appointed as a "skilled labor" so this gives me a lot of confidence and hope for the future". It will remain a struggle for the community in Banara for some time, but people are already starting to see improvements. Tulsi is on the 'Tole committee' to promote the construction of latrines and women like Ram Kali Rana are really appreciating the improvements clean pumps provide.

"It is so clean and easy now, that I can wash clothes by the pump. We've been convinced to build a latrine and only finished it a few days ago".

The introduction of arsenic filters and the construction of flood defenses are also contributing to the confidence of families like Ram Kali's and bringing them a safer and healthier life. By the time Tulsi's hand pumps are finished she will have brought that to a great many more.

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