The Sari that protects against cholera

This piece was posted by Communications Intern Hilde Faugli.

Woman in Varanasi, India

Woman in Varanasi, India. Photo: Peter Caton

The sari, it seems, may offer more than perhaps what we usually expect of a piece of cloth. The sari, that traditional brightly coloured garment worn predominantly in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, is currently being used by innovative women in Bangladesh to filter their daily water, thereby reducing cholera. 

A study published by the American Society for Microbiology shows the amazing results of women in Bangladesh who are using their saris to filter their daily water, in reducing cholera.  In 2003 researchers found that simply teaching Bangladeshi village women responsible for collecting water to filter the water through folded cotton sari cloth could reduce the incidence of cholera by nearly half. Five years later they found that the practice was sustained by many of the women in the village, and that it had also spread to some women that initially were not given training on how to filter water.

One of the things that particularly strikes me about this story is the simplicity of the technique.  It does not rely on costly technologies and it is socially acceptable, the filtration method did not require financial resources or extensive training on the part of the village women, and it was easily included in their daily activity.

Another thing that stands out is the fact that targeting women is a very effective way of bringing about change. Women in the developing world usually bear the brunt of the responsibility for their families’ daily needs, cooking, collecting water, collecting firewood, etc. A focus on women is therefore also often a focus on the broader household, and as, seen here, sometimes the wider community.

This resonates with Find Your Feet’s approach. Rather than bringing expensive, technologically complicated inputs into communities we support them to use locally available resources and to build on their own skills and knowledge to develop solutions to the problems they face. And, by involving women in leadership positions at every stage of our projects, the women we work with are gaining the skills and confidence to bring about changes that will benefit the whole community.

Click here to read more about Find Your Feet’s work with women.

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