With Sanitation Report Cards And Swachh Walls As Their Weapons, Children From Odisha Slums Fight Open Defecation
Highlights
  • Mere 40 per cent of households have toilets in Odisha
  • Berhampur municipality has started a unique campaign to make Odisha ODF
  • The municipality has involved children from 163 villages as Swachh leaders

With one agenda in their mind – to make their area ‘Swachh’, children from the age group of 3-15 from 163 villages of Odisha gather together every day, armed with colours, brushes, notebooks, to paint dirty walls of their villages with their own Swachh Bharat Abhiyan inspired artworks. The motive is simple – to make people aware about Swachhta and inspire them to achieve the open defecation free status. Apart from giving the village walls a Swachh makeover, these children have also put up ‘slum sanitation walls’, which helps them and authorities monitor the level of sanitation in the villages.

With Sanitation Report Cards And Swachh Walls As Their Weapons, Children From Odisha Slums Fight Open Defecation
This is the Slum Sanitation Report Card wall

These Swachh activities by children are being carried out as a part of ‘Shreshtha Berhampur’ campaign which has been initiated by the Berhampur Municipal Corporation, the third largest municipality in Odisha which covers 163 villages of the state. Together with Youth for Social Development, a non-government organisation the campaign aims to make these villages 100% open defecation free along with improving the hygiene and sanitation statistics.

Also Read: These Four States May Defeat India’s Fight Against Open Defecation

A Unique Approach – Behrampur Children’s Federation

With Sanitation Report Cards And Swachh Walls As Their Weapons, Children From Odisha Slums Fight Open Defecation
Meet the Swachh Crusaders of Odisha

In order to achieve the target, the authorities created Behrampur Children’s Federation which includes all these little swachh crusaders who move from one street to another, paint walls with ‘Swachhta’ message, give out weekly Slum Sanitation report cards and assess slum sanitation and hygiene status.

In these villages, sanitation and hygiene which is the basic human right is not up to the mark. Nearly 68% of people choose to defecate in the open, mostly garbage is dumped in the open grounds and sewerage system is bad since there is no proper drainage system. All this can only be worked out, if we have support from the people living in those areas where there are problems. We realised if we speak to the villagers they will not understand the issue, so we thought the message should be passed on by children as they are the change makers of the society. That’s when the local authorities and the NGO decided to form Behrampur Children’s Federation, said Bibhu Prasad Sahu, Secretary, Youth for Social Development.

Also Read: Deogarh Becomes The First Open Defecation Free District In Odisha By Giving Toilet Access To 89% Of Its Households

The Tools Being Adopted By The Little Swachh Warriors

In total there are 30 Behrampur Children’s Federation clubs in the city and each is managed by 6-7 children, the agenda is simple and revolves around topics like cleanliness, toilets, open defecation free and garbage management.

The aim is to know the status of all the areas and in case there are issues then the children can highlight it so that the local bodies can then take desired steps, added Bibhu Prasad Sahu.

Swachh Art Work To Spread The Word

With Sanitation Report Cards And Swachh Walls As Their Weapons, Children From Odisha Slums Fight Open Defecation
Children taking Swachhta Pledge

In order to spread the message of cleanliness and make people aware of the different activities of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the first tool adopted by the little warriors was the cleanup and decoration of different areas. The children beautify each and every wall of their villages with their own swachh art work. Some walls are painted with ‘Say No to Open Defecation’ message while some are with ‘Do Not Litter’message.

The children under the initiative ‘Clean Slum’, spot an unclean area and then every Saturday and Sunday hold a special cleanup drive along with other villagers.

Both these tools are adopted in order to set an example for their elders and pass a strong message of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, added Bibhu Prasad Sahu.

Slum Sanitation Report Card To Assess The Status Of An Area

With Sanitation Report Cards And Swachh Walls As Their Weapons, Children From Odisha Slums Fight Open Defecation
Slum Sanitation report card helps children and authorities monitor the level of sanitation in the villages

The slum sanitation wall is in every neighborhood and explains the concept of the report card, Mr Sahu added, It is basically a pictorial representation on the wall of the village of the access and the quality of various basic services in the slum. For example, on the wall, children have put things like – is there a community toilet, is it regularly cleaned, how many times a day cleaning is done on the roads and the children leaders overlook all these things in the respective area and put a cross or a tick mark accordingly.

A children leader from the slum said, If we put a report out on a wall, we are automatically creating pressure on every person concerned to do their jobs perfectly. For example, if there is a cross in front of ‘Is the public toilet clean’ then the sweeper will know that the job done by him is incomplete, he will try to perfect it the next day. That’s the whole point of having these Slum Sanitation report cards, said Bala Das from the Gaodabandha Street slum.

Taking a step ahead the Berhampur Municipal Corporation now has institutionalised a process in which a sanitation worker of a particular slum needs to go to a children leader and put a sign confirming that he/she has come to the location and cleaned up the particular toilet, only then the worker will get paid.

Also Read: Raipur’s Open Defecation Free Mantra: Villagers Turn Entrepreneurs By Converting Waste To Wealth


‘Ame Kahuchu Ama Katha’ (We Tell Our Story)

With Sanitation Report Cards And Swachh Walls As Their Weapons, Children From Odisha Slums Fight Open Defecation
Children of the villages near the Wall Magazine where they put up paintings, poems or articles highlighting the concerns that they are facing in their areas to the authorities

Another unique approach being adopted to make the slums of Odisha Swachh is a wall magazine, which has been put up by the municipal body in every slum where children are encouraged to write articles, poems or make pictures highlighting the concerns that they are facing in their areas to the authorities. The authorities come and visit these walls every week and get to know the concerns raised.

Apart from all these special Swachh tools, the children leaders head out, every morning and evening to take rounds of their respective areas, simply to monitor cleanliness status of their villages.

Sometimes we go out twice, sometimes we do weekly rounds, we have to monitor everything, we keep an eye out for whether sweeping was done on regular basis in our area, is our community toilet clean or the toilet is being utilised by the people and if not, we find out the reasons, added one of the Slum Leaders from Behrampur Children’s Federation.

The road to Swachh Odisha is still a long and arduous one. Sanitation rate in the state has increased from a mere 13 per cent prior to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to around 40 per cent by May-end this year. The aim of the government is to make India free from open defecation free by October 2, 2019 and to achieve this goal, the government plans to construct 12 crore toilets in rural India. Having swachh warriors like these children in every part of India can surely help fulfill the dream of Clean India.

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