New Delhi: Empowering children to be the changemakers of tomorrow can go a long way in solving India’s sanitation problem – With this as their mantra, the district administration of Kabirdham in Chhattisgarh decided to make all the 900 villages and 461 gram panchayats free from the practice of open defecation. The district started the revolution of Swachh Chhattisgarh last year with a target to build one toilet in every household by end of August 15, 2017. Today, the district has achieved the status of Open Defecation Free and is undergoing the verification process, after which the state will be given an ODF certificate by the state government.
This is a no-brainer that children are very close to their parents; every parent wants to fulfill the dream of their child. Our motive was simply to leverage this reality and use it for the betterment of the society, we decided to make children the Swachh messiah and help the administration attain the status of Open Defecation Free, said Sarveshwar Bhure, CEO, Zila Panchayat of Kabirdham.
The district held a letter writing activity in some 1300 schools so as children can write letters to their parents telling them the benefits of having a toilet at home and their dream of having one.
This was one of the tools we adopted in order to make the district ODF, almost 1.38 lakh students participated in this letter writing activity and 70-80% households responded to this activity positively, added Mr Bhure.
What’s interesting is that the letter writing idea came from children themselves, highlighting this Mr Bhure said, “We motivated children to use toilets by providing them facilities at schools and then asked them – do you like using toilet or like to go out? The answer was obvious. Children were motivated to use the toilet facilities and many complained that even if they want a toilet their parents disagree with them. One day they decided to write letters to their parents explaining why toilet is a necessity. We just made a small campaign a district level revolution by involving all the students of the district in this swachh campaign.”
The district has been successful in building around 84,000 toilets, and many have been built after this successful school led total sanitation campaign adopted by the district.
From Community Led Total Sanitation Programmes To School Led Total Sanitation Activities
When a district/block/village decides to start the ODF mission, the most important activity it has to undertake is the movement to bring about behavioural change among people. Kabirdham district decided to make people aware and pass on the education of why having a toilet at home is important through both community led and school led programmes, so that they can succeed in their mission completely.
From night camps in the villages in which swachh team leaders went door to door and to pass on the knowledge of why having a toilet at home is a necessity which eventually the district adopted effectively.
The letter writing campaign which was held in the village was simply one way to promote the importance of a toilet at home, apart from the campaign, the administration also regularly followed up with the families on the status of the toilet building.
There were many rebels in the villages also who said that they don’t have money to build toilets, but, our swachh team then adopted another tool to motivate them to build toilet, that’s called community based programme, added Mr Bhure.
Though the district has achieved the target of building toilets but now the agenda for everyone is to attain the tag of ODF plus which refers to total sanitation in terms of solid waste management, improved sewerage lines, storm water drains and pucca cement roads.
Explaining the future plans, Mr Bhure said, we already have door to door collection in 18 panchayats in which we are managing waste effectively and we plan to roll out successful projects in the entire district soon. The target is to attain the tag of ODF Plus.
With one simple technique, Kabirdham has defeated the age-old tradition of Open Defecation. The Kabirdham story reiterates that Children are our future and if empowered right, they can change the fate of the society. It is time for other districts/blocks/villages to take Kabirdham’s cue!