New Delhi: For years women in India’s n villages have been taught one thumb rule – If you need to defecate or urinate, you have to either go early in the morning, when it is still dark, or late at night. Out in the open, as something as basic as a toilet, has actually been a luxury that most Indians haven’t had access to. This is still the reality, in many areas of the country. But ever since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan gained momentum, many instances emerged where women have taken the lead to bring about a change and in some cases fight for toilets to be built. On International Women’s Day, we take a look at some these women and their inspiring stories:
For Uttar Pradesh’s Goldi, A Toilet Was More Important Than Her Marriage
This may well be the real life version of the 2017 Akshay Kumar starrer, ‘Toilet – Ek Prem Katha’. When Goldi got married to Durgesh from Patra gram panchayat of Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh, on the very first day an uncomfortable reality hit her. She got to know that her new home doesn’t have a toilet. On broaching the subject with Durgesh and his family, she received a set of instructions – ‘Don’t go out when there is light’, ‘There is a lota gang in the panchayat, be with them always’, ‘The time slots are 4 am and 9 pm’. Hearing all this, Goldi was so taken aback that she forced to take a firm stand. She told her husband, “I will return to this house only when there is a toilet in this home.” And she left.
Her in-laws thought that the impulsive move will not last and that she will return in a day or two. But, Goldi stayed determined and didn’t return. This compelled her husband’s family to do what they had never even thought about, construct a toilet at home.
So finally, Goldi’s story took a happy turn and she now lives happily with Durgesh.
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13-year-old H Mahankali From Karnataka Goes On A 2-day Fast For A Toilet
H Mahankali, a student of Class VII and is from Talur village of Ballari district in Karnataka. In February this year, one day she returned home from school after attending an awareness programme organised by the gram panchayat on importance of toilets and told her parents that she will now consume food and water only when they build a toilet at home.
Her parents couldn’t afford to build a toilet immediately; they tried to persuade Mahankali, but failed. On the second day of her fast, the matter reached the gram panchayat office and local officials, they all urged her to call off her fast. But, she refused. Seeing her determination, the authorities began work on constructing a toilet outside her house. Only on seeing the construction work start, Mahankali finally broke her fast. After two weeks, the work was completed and she finally had a toilet at home.
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Today, she has become the swachh mascot in her village and talks to other families with conviction, to get them to build toilets at home.
Kalpana Singh Of Etah, Uttar Pradesh Overcame Her Hesitation To Openly Talk About No Toilet In Her Husband’s House
Kalpana was all set to get married to an Indo-Tibetan Police Force (ITPB) jawan, Ram Milan Singh in 2017. Just as the celebrations were at its peak, tragedy struck unexpectedly. One day before the wedding was to take place, Kalpana lost her brother and many relatives in a road accident. Despite the sad turn of events, the wedding happened as planned. In her in-laws house one of the first things to hit her was the lack of functional toilet in the house. Having always had an access to toilet at home, Kalpana was struggling to settle in with this unforeseen circumstance.
Then a call changed everything. Soon after the marriage, Kalpana received a phone call from the Etah District Magistrate (DM), enquiring about her well-being. At the moment, Kalpana could have chosen to remain silent and treat the lack of a toilet in her new home as something to be resolved in private. But she overcame her hesitation and openly talked about being forced to defecate in the open with the District Magistrate. To her nothing was more demeaning than going out in the open to relieve herself. Raising the issue with someone of authority like the DM seemed to her the right thing to do when her dignity was at stake.
On his part, the District Magistrate immediately took action. He asked the panchayat to help build a toilet at Kalpana’s in-laws house. Soon, the work was completed and Kalpana had a functional toilet at her home. The toilet was declared as the administration’s gift to the newlywed couple and Kalpana was honoured as the Swachh ambassador for Etah district for taking a bold step when it mattered.
With Folk Songs As Her Means, Hemanti Devi From Bihar Is Working To Make Her District Open Defecation Free
Open defecation was the only way known to Hemanti Devi. She learnt about toilets and their significance through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign. She used up all her savings to become one of the first ones in the Dsitrict- Rohtas, to get a toilet built at her home. She was fortunate that her husband supported her in this endeavour.
Soon she realised, the need to educate other women like her in the district who were still going out in the open. With music as her tool, she started going door to door, with an agenda to motivate people to construct a toilet at home. Today, she is running a campaign ‘Shauch Mukti Abhiyan Se Swachh Hoga Parivar’ (Open defecation free R Mcampaign will keep your family healthy) with an aim to make villages in the district of Rohtas in Bihar open defecation free.
Phoolkumari Devi From Jharkhand Constructed A Toilet for Her Future Daughter-In-Law
Phoolkumari always felt that a woman’s problems can be understood only by another woman. She has spent all her life hunting for perfect spots so that she could defecate openly and be safe at the same time. Phoolkumari didn’t want her daughter-in-law to suffer the same fate and she vowed to first get a toilet made at home and then find a suitable match for her son.
Phoolkumari, soon got associated with a Self Help Group in the district, who provided incentives in three installments. With their support and that of the District Water and Sanitation Committee, she was successful in getting herself a toilet constructed at home.
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