Effect of Drought on Women

Drought is a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall leading to shortage of water. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days, depending on the situations and circumstances. Drought impacts, Food insecurity, water availability & drinking water availability and health & sanitation. The basic water requirement for a person is 20 liters which includes both drinking water and water for daily requirements 1. However, the situation of water availability becomes acutely short and causes a state of emergency situations like drought. In all the states of India, the state of Thar, ‘Rajasthan’, suffers the most by drought. The region has only 1% of water resources of India 2, which are depleting gradually, according to its usage. Rajasthan due to its arid and sandy region soil nature gets severely affected by drought, for say, ‘every 2 years’. Amid these tensed conditions women are the one who get affected directly.

Natural disasters affect both the men and women differently. It is important to talk about women as it has been proved by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development 3, that during any type of natural disasters or calamity women are especially the most vulnerable. There is a need to eradicate the gender bias and improve women’s condition as leads to a quality of lifestyle. Also, by involving women in policy making helps in good governance and economical way of life.

It is the woman who gets directly affected here as they are the one who walk miles with pots on their heads, wait in the line and carry the water back. They have the unequal burden of harvesting the water and are often marginalized from using these resources. When the area is hit by drought the number of school dropouts increases of which a large ratio consists of girls. There is a huge difference between these dropout ratios as girls are associated with doing household work and the task of harvesting water in drought hit area is generally carried out by them.

Due to water scarcity the health and sanitation of women gets affects too. First, there is no clean drinking water and second, there is a subsequent loss in fertility as a result of poor health. The group which suffers most of the diseases includes Women and children. About 80% of the women and children in the Thar region suffer from iron deficiency and anemia 4. The water scarcity subsequently affects the fertility of women and results in high death rates. Also, to notice that hygiene gets badly affected during menstruation.

When there is too less water- drought, the primary effect is on agricultural production which questions, ‘food security’. During the calamity the gender roles often changes, men migrate to the cities to earn. During such times women often stay back in villages and take up the task of working in the agricultural fields to support the children and elderly till their husbands return from cities.

There have been steps taken by the GRAVIS to overcome these gender differences and bring gender-sensitive changes. To bring women empowerment and hearing the voices of women there have been an initiative by the NGO to bring socio-economic changes. In these SHG the women are encouraged to build their small start ups which help them improve their social and economic status, for instance, the NGO has helped women to open small groceries, tailoring startups or working in wheat mills 5. Also the efforts to build Tanka helped women save miles of walk and brought a positive change in their lives. Women empowerment is essential in natural calamities as it will help develop better policies to deal with the disaster and also help build a sustainable environment and future.

*Volunteer at GRAVIS


  1. WHO Publications; Technical Notes; ‘How much water is needed?’; Water Sanitation Health; 2011; pg 1-4.
  2. Government of India (GOI). 2004. Drought–2002. New Delhi: Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture.
  3. Pradhan, Neeru Shrestha; Bisht, Dr. Suman; KIB, Su Yufang and Yahui, Zou; A Case Study On Adaptation And Resilience To Water Related Hazards: Analysing Gendered Responses To Climate Change In Yunnan; ICIMOD; 2011;  pg 1-25.
  4. Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) publications; ‘Drought Health and Communities’; 2010; pg -1-44.
  5. Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) publications; ‘Women combating drought’; 2011; pg 1-42.
  6. India Together Publications; Article; Malik, Deepak; ‘Without rain a Bleak Outlook’; October 2002.
  7. Population Reference Bureau (PRB) publications; Article; Yavinsky, Rachel Winnik; ‘Women more vulnerable than men to Climate Change’; December 2012.
  8. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) publications; Book; ‘Women at the Frontline of Climate Change: Gender Risks and Hopes’; ISBN: 978-82-7701-099-1; 2011; pg 1-68.

*Sisodia, Jahanvi (Intern)


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