We sat down with Sanskruti for an interview. Sanskruti’s answers in Hindi were translated by her friend Mousumi while live on a call. All images provided by Sanskruti. Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
Sanskruti is a young changemaker from the Satara District of Maharashtra, India. Like many teens around the world, Sanskurti loves to read books and use social media. She is very fond of Indian culture and enjoys cultural festivals throughout the year.
Some parts of Maharashtra have experienced widespread water scarcity after decades of drought. Growing up, the only sources for water Sanskruti could rely on were rainwater, the small streams near her village, and water purchased from neighboring villages.
For six months, Sanskruti’s village had to depend on the neighboring village 14 kilometers away for water. They would buy one hundred liters of water (26.4 US gallons) for thirty rupees. Whenever a tanker truck with water would come into town, the villagers would fight to get their share.
Seeing this, Sanskruti felt the need to take action and do something about the water scarcity issues. This happened to coincide with a program taking place at Sanskruti’s school with the Paani Foundation (“Paani” meaning water in Hindi), a non-profit organization that strives to make the Maharashtra state drought-free through innovative solutions and technologies.
Through this program, Sanskruti learned about different water scarcity solutions and ways she could address the problems created by the drought. She recruited some other young volunteers to start supporting a new initiative.
Sanskruti first worked to raise awareness among the villagers in her community by educating them on ways they could address drought issues. She did this with the help of her friends, Sanika and Ritika, through street plays and door to door campaigns.
Many villagers came forward to volunteer their time and service after seeing the effort Sanskruti, Sanika and Ritika put into the campaigns.
Next Sanskruti and village volunteers started to dig to create CCTs (Continuous Contour Trenching). This is where rainwater is deposited, goes into the soil and increases the underground water levels.
Continuous Contour Trenching Explained
Continuous Contour Trenching (CCTs) is an agricultural technique that can treat an area in need of water, soil conservation, or to increase agricultural production. The treatment replenishes a watershed through retaining soil moisture and conserving water.
Trenches are dug along contour lines in an area so water flowing downhill is stopped by these ditches. The water then drains into the soil beneath the trenches.
“Deposits of rainwater and the water that flows into the ground after watering crops increases the underground water levels and that’s how eventually our villages’ increased,” says Sanskruti.
The water that drains into the trenches provides soil moisture for crops farmed after rainfall, and can extend the soil moisture to the dry season. The underground water can even be pumped out for irrigation or extracted from shallow wells in the area.
“When we started in 2017, about 15 people came for CCT work, but [then] our impact got so much attention and our initiative got awareness campaigns. [Now] it’s so much bigger. In 2019, more than 100 people on average started coming for the CCT work.”
Before starting the work to get more water to the village, the community would need to take enough water for six months from other areas. As the water supply gradually started increasing they started to depend on other villages less and only needed a water supply for one month.
“In 2017 we were only able to dig 200 meters of CCTs and eventually people started giving importance in this [water] war, and in 2019 we were able to dig more than 3,000 meters of CCTs in my village,” says Sanskruti.
Today, Sanskruti says, “the underground water scarcity problem is almost solved.”
Along with addressing the water scarcity issues, the CCT project also was about gender inclusion. The initiative was encouragement for women to leave their houses and get involved. And once Sanskruti got one woman to join her, often her whole family and women in the neighborhood would also.
Sanskruti describes how generally in villages the girls and women don’t get support even if they want to make an impact. So through her initiative she started interacting with them on a deeper level.
“In our village, we are kind of hesitant about speaking up about issues that girls face,” says Sanskruti. “For example, we have our menstrual hygiene-related issues, so when I started the initiative, openness, freedom to talk and freedom to discuss these issues became much easier and feasible among girls.”
These open conversations and ability to discuss issues that were previously unspoken have given girls motivation and encouragement. Seeing this has been the most rewarding aspect of Sanskruti’s changemaking journey.
“Now the girls in my village look at me and my friend and they get inspired by our work,” says Sanskruti. “They also started thinking about [these issues] as well and they started working on them. I kind of became a role model for them.”
Along with changing the mentality of women in the village, Sanskruti is helping children grow up with a changemaker mindset and showing them anyone can make an impact if they put in the effort.
“The thinking process should be changed from a very young age so that there will be more children that are socially conscious,” says Sanskruti. “Even school kids started talking about these issues and they are becoming aware about the issues that exist in my society. They started thinking about solutions to these problems as well.”
A Changemaking Movement
After the success of the CCT work in her village, Sanskruti was invited to be an Ashoka Young Changemaker. Through this she gained even more knowledge about different ways to create change in her community and Sanskruti felt the need to change some old ways of thinking.
“Pehchan vahi,soch nayi” means “old identity, new thinking” and is a changemaking movement Sanskruti is spearheading. She wants to change the traditional mindset in regards to past great leaders that are celebrated.
Oftentimes, these leaders are celebrated during their birth or death anniversaries, and their photos are displayed and honored. Sanskruti believes the best way of keeping their work and beliefs alive is to study what they have done and teach future generations.
“Any country in the world makes progress due to the collective contribution and sacrifice made by so many leaders, social reformers who spend their entire life for the country. Some of them are known and some remain unsung heroes. These leaders are the inspirations for the future generations. Any seed can be well nourished if it is sowed at a tender age in school,” describes Sanskruti.
How to Become a Changemaker
“When I started working I didn’t have any idea about this change-making process. I just knew that there are problems existing in my society and I want to solve them,” says Sanskruti.
In addressing problems, Sanskruti stresses that you cannot wait for others to make change for you. Or wait for your government to solve problems. She suggests you start small and local.
“Always try to do work at the local level first – try to solve the issues at the grassroot level and then go to a global level,” says Sanskruti.
And to truly create lasting change, get support from others. Collaboration brings new ideas to life and you’ll have more helping hands.
“Too many problems exist in a society and it’s not possible for only one person to do all the work. We need more people to come together, and not just people, but youth around the world,” says Sanskruti.
Learn more about Pehchan Vahi, Soch Nayi. Read more Rustic Spirit stories.