Marwat’s Story: Catching Rain for Women

Posted in India on June 21, 2016

Marwat and her daughters walked miles each day to fetch water at the village rainwater naadi.

In India’s Thar Desert, childhood for girls often ends at age two—when girls begin to walk and must join their mothers and sisters in carrying the family’s water.  Being forced water-bearers is only a symptom of larger problems they face, such as extreme social inequity and marginalization. Not only are many forced into child marriages, but female infanticide is rampant, and they must spend their lives in purdah (veiled confinement). As Traditional Medicinals (TM) was exploring ways of introducing organic senna farming practices to Rajasthan, Traditional Medicinals Foundation (TMF) and WomenServe advocated for TM to address issues of women’s empowerment as well as water security in the region. Subsequent large-scale investments in the Revive! Project® have helped elevate women to a more equal standing in these six senna communities, ensuring that both they and their families thrive for generations to come.


Like many of her peers, Marwat entered into a marriage arranged by her family at age 13. In purdah, modest, and dutiful at age 35, Marwat now has five daughters of her own—all of whom are subject to the same hardships as their mother. With her husband disabled, Marwat and her daughters walked miles each day to fetch water at the village rainwater naadi (catchment pond) to use for bathing, drinking, nourishing cattle, and washing clothes. During a drought and before the monsoons when the naadi went dry, she relied on the good graces of family members willing to share from their personal underground taankas (rainwater catchment tanks) yet she was still obligated to contribute to their expensive monthly water deliveries.

A woman draws water from her taanka.


The Revive Project has used contributions from TM and its partners to build 365 taankas, which are gifted and named for the women of each household. As a Revive Project taanka recipient, Marwat no longer needs to go as far as her local naadi for water, saving her hours of time, anxiety, and the chronic pain of transporting a 25 pound water jug on her head in the desert heat. Furthermore, she now revels in the fact that her family’s taanka is in her name, as all other property legally belongs to her husband. Marwat’s younger daughters are now able to attend school, helping to reduce Rajasthan’s 85% female illiteracy rate. For women like Marwat, the project also funds ongoing professional and vocational arts trainings through 22 self-help groups, allowing them to build relationships with peers, learn new skills, and gain access to micro-loans with a new sense of liberation.

The Revive Project’s social interventions are helping to rewrite the destinies of Marwat and her daughters, along with those of 12,000 senna farmers and their families in the villages of Khidrat, Khan Singh Ki Sid, Sodadhada, Nayagaon, Khara, and Dayakaur. Life is now blossoming with renewed hope and possibilities in these villages.

Read more about the broader scope of the Revive Project’s initiatives here.

The Revive Project has built 365 taankas, which are gifted and named for the women of each household.