Standing up for right to toilet
Standing up for right to toilet

Women are driving a transformational change in rural India and have become a source of inspiration for millions. There are several inspirational stories of women who have become the ambassadors of change in the sanitation revolution spreading across rural India. We bring to you a few. 

Hemanti Devi of Rohtas, Bihar has been inspiring villagers with her folk songs. “Shauch Mukti Abhiyan Se Swachh Hoga Parivar”, (meaning – ODF campaign will make your family healthy) sings Hemanti Devi, a self-trained folk vocalist, lyricist and composer who has made a firm resolve to make villages in the district of Rohtas in Bihar open defecation free (ODF). 

She has already played a significant role in making her Panchayat – Semari and Block Dawath ODF. Currently, Hemanti Devi is also an active member of Bharti SHG (Self-Help Group) and her efforts have inspired many fellow women of the JEEVIKA fraternity to join the movement. 

Another inspiring story is of Mahakali, a 7th standard girl from Karnataka, who convinced the Sarpanch to build a toilet in her house despite facing resistance from her parents. She has not only brought about an instrumental change in her family but also went on to influence the entire village to use toilets to defecate. Determined to change the existing situation created due to open defecation, Mahakali took it upon herself to ensure that a toilet is built in her house with the help of the Gram Panchayat.

Even senior citizens have joined the mission, where people like Saramma are using their wisdom to convince their family and others in the community to make use of a toilet. When the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign was launched in her village of Mudgapur in Chennaraopet mandal of rural Warangal district in Telangana, Saramma compelled her family to attend all the awareness building sessions where they learnt about the need to adopt safe sanitation practices for the health and well-being of the whole community. 

As the income of their family barely met the living expenses and the medical expense of their only daughter who is speech and hearing impaired, Saramma took it upon herself to build their own toilet and ensure her family practices safe sanitation practices. 

Dhanbrata Devi, who lives in Rampur Naresh village in Rohtas district of Bihar in a house made of mud walls and a thatched roof, says “A toilet is more precious than my ornaments”. Having learnt about the importance of safe sanitation practices and the need to have a toilet at home, she pawned her jewellery to build a pucca toilet for the use of her family. When the district administration began the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign in her village, she spoke to the motivators at length and was determined to get a toilet for her home. Subsequently Dhanbrata has also motivated others to practice safe sanitation practice and keep their village clean. 

 Alendra, who got a pucca toilet outside her thatched hut in rural Warangal district of Telangana. Suffering from a hearing impairment, Alendra did not let her inability to hear stop her from doing what is right for her family. Her decision to go for an individual toilet in her home, despite living in a dilapidated home has been commended in her village.  In fact, it has motivated others in the village to do the same, until the whole village became open defecation free (ODF).

They have struggled against all odds and have triggered a mission. Today more than 3.25 lakh villages, 314 districts and 11 Indian States/ UTs have become open defecation free and women in particular should take pride in their contribution in making Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin a success.