Strength of women explored in striking water photos

Photo represents the climate crisis and threat of cyclones, inspired by the story of a girl who lost her home to rising sea levels in Bangladesh. Image: WaterAid/Poulomi Basu

The energy and strength of women and girls, and the importance of water and sanitation in helping them fulfil their potential as a force for change, is at the heart of a photo series commissioned by charity WaterAid.

Sisters of the Moon features striking dystopian images by artist and activist Poulomi Basu, and are part of WaterAid's Thirst for Knowledge appeal. They show how a lack of clean water and toilets limits the power and potential of women and girls, as well as highlighting issues such as gender-related violence, menstrual taboos and climate change.

In one a woman sits in a bed that is submerged in water, alongside floating water containers, highlighting how the climate crisis is a water crisis. Elsewhere, a group of women are carrying water pots over a snowy, rocky terrain, reflecting the challenging journeys millions of girls make every day to collect water.

An award-winning artist and ecofeminist, Basu has collaborated with WaterAid on assignments since 2013. Sisters of the Moon was inspired by the women and girls she has met in that time, as well as her own experience of being raised in a patriarchal household in Kolkata, India.

Image: WaterAid/Poulomi Basu

She chose to create a fictional world in the beautiful and barren landscape of Iceland, placing herself in the photographs as a way of connecting her own struggles with those of women and girls from across the global south.

She said: “Sisters of the Moon explores our global water crisis and the challenges of environmental and ecological change, and how these intersect with gender equality. I have drawn on my past experiences working in the field and my own family life growing up in India to present an ecofeminist tale in which the women look powerful but their real power has been curtailed and controlled.

"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."

Poulomi Basu, artist and activist

“Girls shouldn’t have to spend hours each day collecting water for their families; they should be in school studying. 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.

“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. 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.”

An ode to the sacred relationship between indigenous women, water and the environment. Image: WaterAid/Poulomi Basu

WaterAid's Thirst for Knowledge appeal will bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to homes and schools around the world, helping ensure girls have an equal chance to learn in dignity and safety. The UK Government will match public donations made by 15 February 2022 up to £2 million, helping bring vital facilities to an additional 28,000 people and 30 schools in the Bardiya district of Nepal.

Pointing towards the greater powers of women and how, if they got the right opportunities, they would rule the universe. Image: WaterAid/Poulomi Basu

Tim Wainwright, chief executive, WaterAid, said: “Poulomi Basu’s thought-provoking photo series captures how fundamental clean water and decent sanitation are in tackling gender inequality and helping people overcome poverty.

"If these basic human rights are met, girls can stay in school, women have the time to earn a living, and whole communities can be healthier while also building resilience against the effects of climate change. By supporting WaterAid’s Thirst for Knowledge appeal, the public can help get clean water, toilets and good hygiene to communities around the world, transforming lives for generations to come."