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From Deploying Women As Swachh Messengers To Sending Wedding Invites, Chamoli District Did It All To Go ODF

Rural Uttarakhand was declared open defecation free in June this year. Since the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, 5,84,000 individual toilets have been constructed in 13 districts of the state. The residents of these districts actively participated towards bringing in a huge behavioral change among people to build toilets and stop open defecation.

Most of the houses in Chamoli did not have a toilet till 2014 and women bore the brunt of it, as they would have to figure when to go out and relieve themselves. Since after dark there was fear of wild animals, women try to either go in groups or wait till sunrise to defecate in the open.

The trauma of the women without access to toilets made them the ideal advocates for campaigning against open defection and urging people to build toilets.

The district officials along with women from villages in each block formed a group and went around villages to promote toilet building initiatives and convincing people about the benefits of building toilets. More women joined the movement to push for building toilets and ending open defecation. As a result of these efforts, within 25 days, 811 toilets were built in the villages in June 2016.

Once the movement caught on, there was no looking back. More people joined in and some chose their own unique style to spread the Swachh message. Pradip Dimri's wedding invite did not just have venue and date details but also carried a special message for his invitees, ?Build toilets to keep our surroundings clean'.

Following these, various awareness programmes were conducted at schools, encouraging students to use toilets and not defecate in the open.

Taking a step further, 30 villages on either side of the Alaknanda River, from Mana and Badrinathpuri to Gholtir and Sari also became open defecation free.

With all these efforts, the sanitation coverage of the district increased to 64.18 per cent and by the end of 2016, it was declared ODF. A huge achievement for the women who led the movement for an open defecation free Chamoli.

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