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International Women's Day 2022: Meet five women sanitation crusaders

International Women's Day 2022: Meet five women sanitation crusaders

Ambitious initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission are proving to be a game-changer in terms of access to toilets and safe sanitation.

Ambitious initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission are proving to be a game-changer in terms of access to toilets and safe sanitation. The initiative has not only focussed on building toilets across the length and breadth of the country but is also driving awareness in society, regarding open defecation and clean surroundings.

On this occasion of International Women’s Day, we will highlight the achievements of five women sanitation crusaders in India who have played an instrumental role in bringing change at the grassroots.

Kajal Roy

A sarpanch in the Sana village under Jashpur district of Chattisgarh, Kajal Roy realised the importance of a toilet after the one was built at her home under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The changes in her life made her realise that the ambitious initiative is not just about elimination of open defecation but to empower women and transform their lives.

She then went through training under the National Rural Livelihood Mission to learn how to make bricks.  Following this, Kajal mortgaged her jewellery and used her skills of brick making to construct toilets. She brought together fellow and trained them in brick making also. This resulted in construction of 100 household toilets. 

Mula Devi

Mula Devi has played a pivotal role in spreading awareness regarding the dangers of open defecation in her village Bhimnagar in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. Water borne diseases as well as Japanese encephalitis were regular in this village, situated in Madhogarh block of Jalaun district, due to the poor sanitation and hygiene. 

Previously children used to dip their tumblers in the potable water pot with their dirty hands. This made her realise the importance of dippers with long handles so that individuals can pour out water without contacting their fingers. Even much before the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission Mula Devi had realised the dangers of open defecation and started educating people about safe sanitation practices. Due to her decade-long efforts, which started in late 2000, she was able to install soakpit toilets at many households with the help of her Self-help group members. 

Usha Chaumar

From a manual scavenger in 2003 to being a senior member of a prestigious NGO today, the story of Usha Chaumar is nothing short of a miracle. Usha, who once worked as a manual scavenger in Rajasthan’s Alwar, currently heads the NGO, Sulabh International Social Service and is renowned for being a Dalit social worker and a sanitation activist.

Usha raised her voice against manual scavenging and transformed into a motivational public speaker. She has also visited different countries to raise the concerns of manual scavengers in India. Because of her activism for the rights of the sanitation workers she was awarded with Padma Shri, the third highest civilian honour in the country in 2020. 

Priyanka Bharti

Priyanka Bharti mustered the courage to leave the house of her in laws in 2012 as they didn’t have a toilet in the house. This led to a social movement in the Maharajganj district of Uttar Pradesh regarding open defecation.

After getting married, in April 2012, when she reached her in-law’s home in Bishnupur Khurd village it was a shocker for her to know that there was no household toilet. This made her leave her in-laws’ house and it was new development for the villagers as no woman ever dared to take such a step.

This attracted the attention of the district administration to the plight of women who often compromise their dignity due to lack of toilets.  

Asma Parveen

In 2014, six brides from Kheisha village in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh returned to their parents’ place leaving their marital homes due to lack of toilets. This made Asma Parveen, a resident of the same village, to do something about the issue which often affects the dignity of women. Thus started a silent revolution at the grassroots. 

Asma Parveen initiated a campaign to construct toilets in every house in her village.

Her endeavour led to the construction of 70 toilets in her village and she now organises awareness programmes regarding toilets and sanitation across Uttar Pradesh.

Mission Paani, an initiative by News 18 and Harpic India, advocates water, sanitation and hygiene for all. The campaign aims to amplify all efforts by the women sanitation crusaders who are leading the transformation on the ground across the country. Mission Paani believes the objective of sustainable sanitation can only be achieved through a gender inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) framework.

Join the Mission Paani initiative. 

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  • First Published: March 10, 2022, 10:29 IST
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