Dam, a young woman from a Tampuen minority community in Cambodia, is pregnant with her first child. She got married this year and is expecting a baby girl in October. Like many women around the world, pregnancy has given her a new perspective on life but for Dam this has focused her attention on one vital resource: water.
If Dam had become pregnant a few years ago, her experience of this would have been fraught with challenges. She used to have to collect water for her home 2-3 times a day. Even though there has been a well in her village since she was 10 years old this was often busy, so she would regularly go to a stream 1.5km away. The trip would take Dam up to an hour each time, so she often walked many kilometres each day to fetch enough water. Doing this while heavily pregnant would have been incredibly tiring.
Two years ago CARE constructed a new community pond in her village which provides much more water closer to Dam’s home. These days she only needs to spend about 10 minutes a day collecting water. Now she is pregnant, Dam says she appreciates this more than ever before.
CARE has also constructed toilets near Dam’s home whereas in the past she would have to go to the forest. “I didn’t like going to the bathroom in the forest. I was afraid to go to the bathroom at night because of animals and especially snakes,” she shares. Having toilets to use means she no longer has to fear this so she no longer tries to wait until morning. The physical reality of becoming a mother has also made Dam more aware of the benefits of the new toilets built in her village. She admits, “I think it would also have been difficult for me to squat and stand up since I am pregnant.”
These new facilities are complementing a change in attitude among some families. Collecting water has traditionally been a woman’s task, but this is slowly changing. Dam’s family works farming cassavas and they now take turns collecting water for the family. “In my family men and women collect equal amounts of water,” says Dam. She is being supported by those around her, so she is able to focus on keeping herself—and her baby— healthy.
Women in remote villages in north-east Cambodia still face many challenges ensuring they have safe deliveries and healthy babies. With the proximity of clean water to her home, Dam has one less difficulty to worry about.
These activities are part of WASH in Schools and Communities project, which is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
Thanks to ANCP, women like Dam are spending less time collecting water.