A Tale Of Two Women Federations In Maharashtra And Gujarat Leading The Sanitation Revolution

A Tale Of Two Women Federations In Maharashtra And Gujarat Leading The Sanitation Revolution

With technical support from Ambuja Cement Foundation, women federations in Maharashtra and Gujarat are promoting construction and use of toilets are eradicating open defecation
Gujarat, Maharashtra, Swachh Warriors
- in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Swachh Warriors
A Tale Of Two Women Federations In Maharashtra And Gujarat Leading The Sanitation RevolutionEkta Mahila Sakshimikaran Sansthan, women federation of Chandrapur district, Maharashtra has helped 18 villages attain open defecation free (ODF) tag
  • The two women federations are associated with Ambuja Cement Foundation
  • Community led sanitation program was started in Chandrapur, Maharashtra
  • In Gujarat, under Sorath federation, 14 villages attained ODF tag

New Delhi: The story dates back to 2015 when Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) focused on making the country open defecation free (ODF) by October 2, 2019, was at a nascent stage. During that time, Meena Devarao Bobade, Vice Chair, Ekta Mahila Sakshimikaran Sansthan, women federation of Chandrapur district, Maharashtra, sent out a special invitation for loans to self-help groups (SHG). In a first, loans were being provided for the construction of toilets. To Ms Bobade’s surprise, only 4 out of 22 applications for a loan from her village Pimpalgaon in Chandrapur were for toilets. It is then Ms Bobade took up the challenge of ensuring a toilet in every household and started by creating awareness about the importance of having access to sanitation at home.

Also Read: World Toilet Day 2020: Meet 55-Year-Old WASH Warrior From Trichy Who Built Over 6 Lakh Toilets In Last 33 Years

From SHG meetings, village functions to social gatherings, Ms Bobade would talk about the role of individual household toilet everywhere she went but this didn’t go down well with the villagers who were used to defecating in the open. Recalling her hardships, Ms Bobade said,

I faced harsh criticism. People ignored and avoided me. To educate people on the need and importance of toilets, Ambuja Cement Foundation suggested me to organise a visit for women to nearby villages where toilets had been built.

Witnessing first hand, the toilets being constructed in the nearby villages and fellow villagers using it happily motivated residents of Pimpalgaon to construct toilets. Within three months, 85 per cent of households in Pimpalgaon had toilets and in eight months the toilet coverage stood at 100 per cent.

A Tale Of Two Women Federations In Maharashtra And Gujarat Leading The Sanitation Revolution
Women from Pimpalgaon in Maharashtra who have adopted safe sanitation by using a toilet

But, the fight against open defecation didn’t end at achieving 100 per cent coverage of the Individual Household Toilets. The next task was to make people use those toilets. For the same, Ms Bobade formed her ‘Good Morning Team’ – a group of women who guarded the common open defecation spots every morning. This caused a lot of uneasiness among villagers who even made threats. But the ‘Good Morning Team’ stood their ground and gradually change seeped in.

Also Read: Swachh Warrior: 16-Year-Old Tamil Nadu Girl, The Sole Breadwinner Of Her Family, Helps Build Toilets In Her Village

We had to even threaten women in the early days that if we find you defecating in open we will click a picture and share it with the community. Thus, the mindset changed and people started to build their own toilets, said 45-year-old Chandatai Ramgirwar, from Hardona Khu, Chandrapur.

The work of the members of Ekta Mahila Sakshimikaran Sansthan has resulted in the construction of 568 toilets and 18 villages attaining ODF tag. Similarly, Sorath Mahila Vikas Sahkari Mandali Ltd, women federation in Kodinar district of Gujarat has helped build 1,676 toilets and made 14 villages ODF. NDTV spoke to the members of the two women federations operating under the guidance of Ambuja Cement Foundation to understand how they mobilise people to adopt good sanitation and hygiene practices and ensure availability of funds.

Also Read: Defying Gender Problems And Open Defecation, Sunita Devi From Jharkhand Is Training Women To Build Toilets

Women Federations Catalysing Change With The Backing Of Ambuja Cement Foundation

A women federation is an umbrella covering hundreds of self-help groups. While Ekta Mahila Federation covers 45 villages and has 159 SHGs, Sorath Federation has 749 SHGs under its ambit. The two bodies provide women training on micro-credit and income generation activities linked with local banks. Since they are associated with Ambuja Cement Foundation, they are also playing a crucial role in promoting safe sanitation.

A Tale Of Two Women Federations In Maharashtra And Gujarat Leading The Sanitation Revolution
Meet the women from Sorath Mahila Vikas Sahkari Mandali Ltd, women federation in Kodinar district of Gujarat promoting sanitation

Also Read: ‘SquatEase’, An Innovation By A 26-Year-Old From Pune Makes Using Indian Style Toilet Easy

Talking to NDTV about the collaboration with federations, Pearl Tiwari, Director and CEO, Ambuja Cement Foundation, said,

When we began our sanitation project in the Chandrapur location, the local women were exhausted dealing with the day-to-day problems due to open defecation practices in their villages. A survey conducted in 2011 in 14,839 households of 149 villages showed that only 34 per cent of the constructed toilets were in use, the rest being dysfunctional. Women and girls feared their safety and often avoided defecating during the daytime which had repercussions on their health. Also, there had been incidents of snake and insect bites that posed a huge danger for the entire community. Dysentery and water-borne diseases were also on the rise. Therefore, we took up the community sanitation project on urgent priority. The challenge, however, was not only the lack of toilet structures but also people’s lack of willingness to use it. Villagers had several misconceptions such as a toilet inside the house may bring bad luck to the family, or that toilet construction will be very expensive and hence unaffordable.

Also Read: Deprived Of Toilets For The Longest Time, Residents Of Ludhiana In Punjab Witness A Sanitation Revolution

Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) felt an urgent need to encourage the community to build toilets and take ownership of it. To achieve this, ACF introduced the Community Led Total Sanitation program (CLTS) and started working on educating the community on the multiple and long-term social and financial effects arising due to lack of sanitation practices. For the same, ACF involved women belonging to self-help groups and federations as they are seen as frontrunners of social change.

Under the community-led total sanitation program, awareness campaigns, rallies, exposure visits to other villages where people were using toilets and reaping its benefits were organised to bust myths surrounding the usage of toilets. ACF also sensitised school children, a harbinger of change, bringing in additional support.

Also Read: This Work Has Given Me An Identity: Shalini, A Transgender And A Caretaker Of Community Toilets In A Telangana Locality

Throughout the campaign, women were at the forefront, leading the change. Explaining how they would encourage villagers to construct toilets, 41-year-old Hansaben Jadhav from Sandhanidhar, Gujarat, said they would call a village meeting and discuss the reasons behind not having an individual household toilet. One of the reasons people would give was a lack of financial support to build and maintain a toilet. Ms Jadhav added,

We ask them that if you have a TV, mobile phone, motorcycle at home then why not a toilet? During awareness sessions, we conduct a demonstration where we take two glasses of water – one having clean water and the other filed with yellow water depicting excreta. We dip a hair strand into the yellow water and then put it into a glass of clean water. Following this, we ask people, will you drink this water and they straight away say no stating it’s unclean. We explain that in a similar way a fly sits on the human excreta in the fields and other open defecation spots in your surroundings and sits on your food and water.

Also Read: Heroes Of Swachh India: Arvind Dethe, The Man Who Developed Low-Cost Bio-Toilets To Help Make Parts Of India Open Defecation Free

Both the federations were already working towards improving the sanitation status of their villages but Swachh Bharat Abhiyan gave a big push to the idea and started a movement, said ACF. Under its ODF campaign, the government also provided Rs. 12,000 per household for the construction of an individual household toilet which further motivated people to adapt to the change.

A Tale Of Two Women Federations In Maharashtra And Gujarat Leading The Sanitation Revolution
An elderly woman standing with her newly constructed toilet

Ekta federation even mandated the construction of toilets for its SHG members if they wanted to take a loan for any other purpose. ACF believes the strategy worked very well in creating urgency for the issue.

Before signing off, Pearl Tiwari from ACF, shared the challenges and learnings of the project and said,

There were technical challenges like villages not having a proper drainage system which came as a roadblock during the construction of tank toilets. One of the federations had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government as part of which a subsidy of Rs. 12,000 would route through the federation. Here the challenge was of change in government guidelines and toilets not meeting specified guidelines because of which the subsidy would get delayed.

Also Read: Made Out Of 3,500 Discarded Plastic Bottles, This 41-Year-Old School In Nashik Finally Gets A Functional Girls’ Toilet

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 193 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 17,66,30,634 and 38,22,022 have died; 5,80,25,717 are active cases and 11,47,82,895 have recovered as on June 16, 2021 at 3:30 am.


2,96,33,105 62,224Cases
2,83,88,100 1,07,628Recovered
3,79,573 2,542Deaths
In India, there are 2,96,33,105 confirmed cases including 3,79,573 deaths. The number of active cases is 8,65,432 and 2,83,88,100 have recovered as on June 16, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

59,24,773 7,652

1,41,440 8,982

56,69,179 15,176

1,14,154 1,458


27,77,010 5,041

1,62,303 9,859

25,81,559 14,785

33,148 115


27,48,204 12,246

1,12,792 1,456

26,23,904 13,536

11,508 166

Tamil Nadu

23,78,298 11,805

1,25,215 11,669

22,23,015 23,207

30,068 267

Andhra Pradesh

18,20,134 5,741

75,134 4,879

17,32,948 10,567

12,052 53

Uttar Pradesh

17,03,207 270

7,221 890

16,74,072 1,104

21,914 56

West Bengal

14,68,044 3,268

20,046 1,125

14,30,949 2,068

17,049 75


14,31,498 228

3,078 148

14,03,569 364

24,851 12


9,88,172 609

11,717 943

9,63,113 1,544

13,342 8


9,50,133 172

5,619 848

9,35,658 1,006

8,856 14


8,59,526 3,405

44,358 3,436

8,11,780 6,799

3,388 42


8,21,078 352

8,884 658

8,02,187 1,006

10,007 4

Madhya Pradesh

7,88,649 224

3,610 331

7,76,424 528

8,615 27


7,66,357 228

3,703 374

7,53,584 564

9,070 38


7,17,949 410

4,360 412

7,04,075 813

9,514 9


6,06,436 1,556

19,933 528

5,82,993 2,070

3,510 14


5,89,153 628

10,802 1,111

5,62,701 1,691

15,650 48


4,66,590 3,415

41,184 475

4,21,378 2,906

4,028 34


3,43,793 184

2,646 416

3,36,058 596

5,089 4


3,37,449 274

3,642 266

3,26,822 515

6,985 25

Jammu And Kashmir

3,08,726 715

12,407 1,125

2,92,114 1,830

4,205 10

Himachal Pradesh

1,99,197 321

4,050 382

1,91,737 691

3,410 12


1,63,048 327

4,175 231

1,55,926 548

2,947 10


1,13,192 355

4,668 279

1,06,828 629

1,696 5


61,200 40

486 21

59,917 58

797 3


61,096 785

8,744 301

51,354 476

998 8


60,385 536

4,886 65

54,870 596

629 5


42,759 450

4,430 99

37,579 542

750 7

Arunachal Pradesh

31,938 290

2,849 40

28,934 326

155 4


23,854 101

2,972 229

20,423 327

459 3


19,649 38

552 20

18,898 57

199 1


18,659 209

3,239 67

15,136 273

284 3


15,899 268

3,637 45

12,191 312

71 1

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,473 9

61 2

10,408 7



9,297 61

484 36

8,768 96

45 1

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,280 11

105 4

7,049 15


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