771 million people – one in ten – do not have access to clean water close to home. Since 1981, international charity WaterAid has been working to change this. Their latest appeal is titled Thirst for Knowledge – aiming to bring clean water and decent toilets to tens of thousands of girls in Nepal and around the world. The goal: to “help ensure they have an equal chance to learn in dignity and safety.”
As part of the initiative, WaterAid is collaborating with award-winning photographer and activist Poulomi Basu (b. 1983) on an evocative new series. Sisters of the Moon is inspired by women and girls the artist has met over the past 10 years, as well as her own experiences of being raised in Kolkata. Through powerful symbolism, the images explore gender-related violence, menstrual taboos and climate change.
These are issues which face women across the globe. As such, Basu has chosen to create a fictional dystopian world, using Iceland’s striking natural landscape as a backdrop. The artist places herself in the compositions – against snow-covered rocks and dark, rippling lakes – using her body “as a canvas to confront the politics of race, representation and environmental justice.”
Basu is recognised for her ecofeminist approach. One striking image depicts a bed submerged in water – inspired by communities in Bangladesh on the frontline of climate change. These people are facing the devastating impact of rising sea levels and flooding. In another photo, women carry water pots over rocky terrain, reflecting the challenging journeys millions of girls make every day to collect water.
“Girls shouldn’t have to spend hours each day collecting water for their families; they should be in school studying,” says Basu. “Menstruation should not hold them back because they do not have decent toilet facilities or proper sanitary kits. If you deny women access to water and toilets, you take away their power.” TheThirst for Knowledge campaign is dedicated to bringing good hygiene to homes and schools.
“Having clean water close to home and at school doesn’t just mean women and girls can spend more time in education, it means they can take charge of their lives and their livelihoods,” the photographer continues. “I believe women have an amazing ability to change the world, and it’s important their basic human rights are met so they can have a voice and reach their full potential.”
Words: Eleanor Sutherland
All images courtesy WaterAid/ Poulomi Basu. Sisters of the Moon series, in support of WaterAid’s Thirst for Knowledge Appeal, Iceland, December 2021.