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In the Indian village of Vavilala, women have found a way to improve the lives of their families. With microfinance loans and each other’s support, they’ve improved the yields on their farms and started small businesses. No longer do their children have to work in the fields instead of attending school or live under straw roofs that can harbor insects.

They still have to drink water from the village’s shallow wells, however; water filled with bacteria, viruses, and fecal matter. Water filters can eliminate the risk of disease, but even affordable filters can cost as much as a third of a family’s monthly income. Microfinance can help get the filters into rural homes.

Creating a distribution network to villages is costly for water filter companies. And if sales reps have to go door-to-door, it drives the price beyond what villagers can afford. So PATH linked companies with local microfinance organizations. Women take a low-interest microloan for the filter and pay it back in installments over six months.

It’s a model that multiplies—one woman buys a water filter, then others become interested and the idea spreads. By partnering with microfinance organizations, PATH is able to reach families with clean drinking water.

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Sai Krishna, a registered medical practitioner, and his wife Indira, who received a loan to buy the water filter. “People come to me with colds, fever, allergies, diarrhea,” he says, “and I tell them clean drinking water will remove these problems most of the time.”

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Mahadevi with her three-year-old daughter Krishnavani. “We were scared about our kids’ health,” she says. “The moment we saw it we knew it was a good thing.”

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Madhavi and her daughters Anjana, 8, and Mani, 4. “Being able to take loans feels good because you’re able to plan and repay slowly,” she says. “Things are much better now for us.”

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Madhavi’s kitchen. “Before, I boiled drinking water for my children over a wood fire to save money on cooking gas,” she says. “The filter is better because I don’t have the work of the wood fire, the taste is better, and the water is cleaner.”

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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Taramma standing at her back door. “All my children had diarrhea and vomiting,” she says. “We didn’t know it was attributable to the water. Now you learn so much about how to stay healthy.”

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.