Hello! My name is Simran Rajpal and I am a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying public health and computational biology. This summer, through my Undergraduate Research Internship under the Water Center at Penn, the Center for the Advanced Study of India and Safe Water Network, I’ll be studying how integral water infrastructure is to improving health and gender equity in the US and India, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about the Safe Water Network and the role of women in water collection efforts in India. In countless households across the country, with homes left unconnected to city water supply, women typically pick up the burden of water related obligations: water collection, storage, purification, use in domestic chores, and treating family members who fall ill with water-related diseases. The lack of convenient access to affordable safe drinking water affects their ability to participate in economic, social, and political activities – effectively locking them into a sustained cycle of disadvantage.
With women making up only 26% of the workforce in 2018, Safe Water Network’s critical work to empower women through sustainable water enterprises – making water more accessible and creating workplaces for women entrepreneurs – is so incredibly important to alleviating this burden.
Over the course of my internship, I’m excited to learn more about the work being done to expand these efforts throughout the rest of the Indian subcontinent. As an aspiring global health professional, it has been so illuminating to see all the work that goes on behind the scenes of a nonprofit doing such vital work. And, on a more personal note, as an Indian-American, it has been so fulfilling to begin to work on projects revolving around the country I’m so proud to claim my heritage from.