Kumari Darmaratne

Making Wanaraniya her home was a beacon of hope for the entire village.  Kumari realizing the importance of having fresh water to each home was a surmountable goal in her mind. Combining her education, work experience, and leadership skills she gathered village women together initiating a water project to provide fresh water needs. Kumari realized that involving women in developing the project to be the best approach for success, as it was females young and old who spend most of their day fetching water for their needs. The young and old traveled to the nearest town with empty containers to fetch water.

Revitalizing the village women's organization "Vishaka Women's Society": Kumari gathered women and launched a plan to bring water from Bambara Kiri Ella a perennial stream to their homes. The plan consisted of constructing a retaining wall across the stream, laying a causeway pipeline 4 miles(6.5 km) long, collecting water in storage tanks, and finally distributing water to individual homes through connecting pipelines.The Pradeshiya Sabha (the local government authority) estimated the project at a cost of SL Rs 4 million (US $ 40,000). Even though the local authority promised to help with the project, the assistance never materialized.  Kumari refusing to withdraw her plans, convinced her society members and her villagers to make an advance of SL Rs 1000.00 ( US $ 10) as a down payment, and promised to supply fresh water needs of those villagers first. She then reached out to Sarvodaya Rural Technical Services (technical division of a leading non governmental agency in Sri Lanka -SRTS) to receive technical support in developing the project.

Water fountain for a weary traveler.
Courtesy of Visaka Women's Society​

Kumari was also able to convince the Ecumenical Loan Fund (ECLOP) to grant a loan to commence the work of the project. With all the assistance received from SRTS, ECLOP, and the contribution made by her community combined with determination and commitment of "Vishaka Women's Society", Kumari embarked on a journey to build their dream water project. Successful completion of the water project came in year 2001, where they began water supplying to the first few homes in the village. The Wanaraniya Water Project that began with a retaining wall and one storage tank in 2001 has developed into a fully fledged water project serving 180 households with their fresh water needs.  It took a retaining wall across Bambara Kiri Ella, two storage tanks with capacity 3170 gal (12,000 L) and 7661 gal (29,000 L), and a carefully laid metered pipeline system within the village and whole lot of women power.

​The challenges faced by Kumari and her resilient women were many. The farmers disrupted work progress thinking that they would not have enough water to farm as the main water source for both farming and water project being Bambara Kiri Ella. Set backs for the water project also came from majority of village males who did not approve the transformation led by females as well as some females who did not believe that women were capable of such leadership. The most alarming struggle came when Vishaka Women's Society was unable to repay the loan from ECLOP. Vishaka Women's Society printed a lottery to overcome the setback, and walked miles and miles for months in order to sell tickets. Finally, Kumari Darmaratne with her team's commitment and determination succeeded by completing a fully fledged water project for a poor, rural village in Sri Lanka.