This Work Has Given Me An Identity: Shalini, A Transgender And A Caretaker Of Community Toilets In A Telangana LocalityAs India celebrates World Toilet Day on November 19, we speak with the toilet warrior - 34-year-old Shalini, a transgender who is working as a caretaker of community toilets in Warangal

New Delhi: “At an age when children are given toys to play with and don’t really care about what the future has in store, I was struggling to create a space for myself. I had understood the importance of standing up for my own identity,” said 34-year-old, Shalini, a transgender who is now working as a caretaker of community toilets in Warangal’s Deendayal Nagar, Telangana.  

Also Read: World Toilet Day 2020: All You Need To Know About The Theme And Significance

Born into a family of masons with two siblings in Warangal, Shalini had a difficult childhood having to cope with her gender identity and accept it. At the age of 14, she chose her gender and decided to be named as Shalini. However, this gender change did not come easy to her. There was a lot of resistance from her family and the society.  

Shalini, Warangal Standing Up for Her Identity

Shalini added, “My parents feared that because of my identity, no one will marry my sisters and they asked me to leave the house. I was disowned by my own family members and by the society.” 

Shalini left the house in search of making her own mark one day – a space where she will be accepted by everyone. This was the turning point in her life. She met people from the transgender community in Warangal with whom she started living. Initially she earned a livelihood from begging and as time passed by she craved to earn a more dignified living livelihood. In her late 20’s she became a member of the Priyanka self-help group (SHG) in the city, which works with the most vulnerable people of the society and helpS them earn a better life. She said,

I think, I was lucky because just when I joined the self-help group got contracted for Operations and Maintenance of community toilets in the city and without any second thoughts I was nominated as a caretaker of the facility. People were scared to work or do anything related to toilets, but I somehow knew that this is my only chance to have a dignified and better life. And it proved me right. 

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Explaining her daily chores and job profile, Shalini said,  

Every day I wake up around 4 o’clock as from 5 in the morning my shift starts. I have a responsibility of cleaning all the toilet blocks in my area and staying at the facility till 8 in the evening.

What’s inspiring is the fact that Shalini did not just restrict her work to cleaning of toilets. She added,  

I wanted to give back to the society who let me work and accepted me for who I am. When I started working at the community toilet initially, I realised that not many knew the importance of having one near them or having the access to it. At that time, India was learning about the Swachh Bharat Mission programme and toilet was still a very new term for everyone around. I knew the importance of having a safe place which we call a toilet, I couldn’t understand how women were okay to go and defecate in the open. And this fact made me want to reach out to them and tell them about the benefits of having one.

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

Initially, Shalini started reaching out to each household surrounding the community toilet, to identify houses without a toilet. Then she noted the details of each member of such households. She also maintained a chart and register of the person visiting the toilet. If she noticed some members of the households not visiting the toilet regularly, she would go to their house and make enquiries to find out why they were not using the community toilet.

I was worried and curious to know why people were not coming to the facility when they had one. I got reasons like because they are not cleaned properly, people don’t know how to use a toilet and some prefer outdoor locations. The most common problem was that community toilets were dirty. I took it upon myself to ensure that no member at least in my area can complain about a dirty toilet. I made it a point that I am cleaning the toilet block three times a day so that it is fit for usage at all point of timeS by FOR everyone. Once I used to finish my cleaning work, I used to go door-to-door telling people the importance of using a toilet and made them believe that whenever they will come and use the facility, it will be my duty to clean it properly, Shalini added.

With education and awareness as her tools Shalini made sure no one defecates in the open in Deendayal Nagar. Shalini also started to  earn Rs 16,000 per month as remuneration from the Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation for maintaining the community toilet block.

Till now she has been able to educate more than 1000 households and stopped many from defecating in the open. Even the community members surrounding the community toilet started praising and appreciating Shalini’s efforts to keep the toilet clean. Her work in popularising the use of community toilet and earning a place for herself in the society have also made her parents happy. She added,

I am myself very proud and I love what I do. No work is small or big, now I want to change the mentality of people when it comes to taking up such jobs. Secondly, we transgenders have always faced reluctance from the community at large, I am happy that slowly this reality is also changing. When I started working as a sanitation worker in 2014, not many people around me knew the importance of such work. But as Swachh Bharat Mission gained popularity and our country move forward to achieve open defecation, people started realising the importance of the word toilet. Over the years, I have seen it become as a topic of discussion, which is great. I hope this gets continued in the same spirit. 

Talking about her role and work in 2020 era and how is she making her living in the times of coronavirus, Shalini said,

Till now, I have never faced much of difficulties in what I do. But 2020 changed all of it. When coronavirus outbreak happened, it was so sudden that no one got the time to think of any back-up plans. One day I was going to work as usual and second day it was all shut.

When the lockdown took place, I had no way to commute. I live 15 kilometres away from my work place – the community toilet. For the initial 2-3 days, I skipped going but soon I realised that I just cannot imagine my days without going and cleaning the toilets. So, i decided to walk. On some days, I got lucky and got lift till my community toilet block and most of the days, I simply walked. I had decided to continue cleaning toilets as always, so that it remains clean and fit for use. So with my protective gears on and taking all precautions I continued working. There was a time when we ran out of toilet cleaning stuff and money transfers took time, so I decided to pitch in from my own pocket and get cleaning sorted. I think, this pandemic has taught US the importance of having access to basic sanitation and hygiene even more.

Also Read: WASH Warrior: Meet 45-Year-Old Ganesh Nagle, Who Is Ensuring His Fellow Slum Dwellers In Bhopal Are Not Deprived Of Sanitation Facilities

Now with the importance of using toilets, Shalini also give lessons on good hygiene and why washing hands at all times is important. She also guides people about wearing masks and practiSing social distancing to fight the ongoing coronavirus crisis. People like Shalini are true champions and warriors. 

“We should never compromise in life, all of us should accept the fact and reality in life and move forward. Working as a sanitation worker is not something one should look down at, instead, it should be accepted in a society as a dignified work. I think then most sanitation workers just like me will start loving what they do and will do it will all their heart,” Shalini signed off.

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

World

17,91,56,496Cases
5,81,68,051Active
11,71,06,212Recovered
38,82,233Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 193 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 17,91,56,496 and 38,82,233 have died; 5,81,68,051 are active cases and 11,71,06,212 have recovered as on June 23, 2021 at 3:45 am.

India

3,00,28,709 50,848Cases
6,43,19419,327Active
2,89,94,855 68,817Recovered
3,90,660 1,358Deaths
In India, there are 3,00,28,709 confirmed cases including 3,90,660 deaths. The number of active cases is 6,43,194 and 2,89,94,855 have recovered as on June 23, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

59,87,521 8,470

1,26,468 1,055

57,42,258 9,043

1,18,795 482

Kerala

28,29,460 12,617

1,00,881 746

27,16,284 11,730

12,295 141

Karnataka

28,15,029 3,709

1,18,615 4,541

26,62,250 8,111

34,164 139

Tamil Nadu

24,36,819 6,895

56,886 4,443

23,48,353 11,144

31,580 194

Andhra Pradesh

18,57,352 4,169

53,880 4,260

17,91,056 8,376

12,416 53

Uttar Pradesh

17,04,678 202

3,910 253

16,78,486 397

22,282 58

West Bengal

14,85,438 1,852

22,508 232

14,45,493 2,037

17,437 47

Delhi

14,32,778 397

1,918 78

14,05,927 467

24,933 8

Chhattisgarh

9,91,653 482

8,007 557

9,70,244 1,032

13,402 7

Rajasthan

9,51,393 137

2,388 303

9,40,101 437

8,904 3

Odisha

8,83,490 2,957

30,859 1,240

8,48,960 4,159

3,671 38

Gujarat

8,22,620 135

5,159 480

8,07,424 612

10,037 3

Madhya Pradesh

7,89,415 65

1,707 273

7,78,902 318

8,806 20

Haryana

7,67,726 146

2,200 137

7,56,231 263

9,295 20

Bihar

7,20,207 268

2,811 206

7,07,833 468

9,563 6

Telangana

6,15,574 1,175

16,640 606

5,95,348 1,771

3,586 10

Punjab

5,93,063 405

5,968 509

5,71,207 880

15,888 34

Assam

4,88,179 2,869

32,975 350

4,50,924 2,482

4,280 37

Jharkhand

3,44,775 110

1,417 72

3,38,256 180

5,102 2

Uttarakhand

3,38,978 171

2,896 68

3,29,030 231

7,052 8

Jammu And Kashmir

3,12,584 428

7,181 578

3,01,134 999

4,269 7

Himachal Pradesh

2,00,791 188

2,276 132

1,95,062 315

3,453 5

Goa

1,64,957 303

2,920 146

1,59,029 438

3,008 11

Puducherry

1,15,364 284

3,214 150

1,10,423 433

1,727 1

Manipur

64,993 575

9,214 84

54,714 649

1,065 10

Tripura

63,140 395

3,747 163

58,735 554

658 4

Chandigarh

61,467 23

278 33

60,383 56

806

Meghalaya

45,976 421

4,273 77

40,915 341

788 3

Arunachal Pradesh

33,664 289

2,548 9

30,956 279

160 1

Nagaland

24,438 64

1,757 87

22,204 149

477 2

Ladakh

19,871 33

360 5

19,309 38

202

Sikkim

19,458 137

2,430 18

16,732 152

296 3

Mizoram

18,409 430

4,424 197

13,900 233

85

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,520 4

61 1

10,455 3

4

Lakshadweep

9,504 33

315 4

9,142 36

47 1

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,425 10

103 6

7,195 4

127

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