Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness : This Organisation Helped Villagers To Build 5,069 Toilets In 1 Year

From our friends at
Sehgal Foundation

December 29th, 2017 / 2:35 PM

“So long as you do not take the broom and the bucket in your hands, you cannot make your towns and cities clean.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

India’s most ambitious mission, Clean India by 2019, is critical to the well being of India’s population, and work by volunteer citizens is helping to realize Gandhiji’s dream of Swachh Bharat. A cadre of 1,000 swachhta senanis (sanitation ambassadors) is acting as action-oriented grassroots change-makers, who are leading the swachh gaons (clean villages) movement in Nuh district of Haryana. These volunteer sanitation ambassadors are some of the 10,000 plus community leaders trained under Sehgal Foundation’s Good Rural Governance program since 2008.

A rally by villagers.

Citizen participation is an integral part of any movement, also because behavioural change is one of the most challenging aspects which needs to be conquered. The understanding that the change begins with the self is the first initiative towards positive change.

Citizens cleaning their area.

Starting in 2016, the volunteer ambassadors joined with fifty field staff from Sehgal Foundation to mobilize and train villagers in this initiative. The tools and techniques were participatory: community meetings, door-to-door visits, rallies, and school campaigns. The campaigns in schools focus on hand-washing techniques, one of the most essential and basic rules of hygiene. Awareness drives show villagers how to maintain sanitation structures in communities and schools, and how to prevent diseases and create compost pits.

It was a matter of concern that 40% of households in the Mewat district did not have toilets and many people still practised open defecation, so the sanitation ambassadors decided to contribute in their own way towards the Clean India Mission. Says Jakir, sanitation ambassador of village Ghida, Nuh: “After learning about the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan in the training session conducted by the foundation, I joined hands with the panchayat and other sanitation ambassadors to organize rallies and door-to-door campaigns. As a result of our efforts, almost Ninety percent of households now have toilets and are also keen to use them, the latter being the most important aspect.”

The team has engaged schoolchildren, who have then taken the message home – spurring parents and neighbours to construct and use toilets and to help keep their villages clean. In communities with sanitation vigilance committees, the ambassadors help monitor the sanitation activities and continue improvements.

As of now, approximately 182 campaigns motivating people to construct and use toilets, 27 school campaigns to promote handwashing and clean villages, and 5,069 toilets have been constructed (period: April 1, 2016 – March 31, 2017).

“Any initiative sees challenges. In this case, the biggest challenge was the involvement of the stakeholders – the people for whom the initiative was being carried out. Questions like: Who will listen to us? Why are we even making the effort? What can one person contribute? And so on. With the passage of time, through meetings, discussions and results, the community began to identify with the concept, and understand its importance. The impact was such that some villagers contributed their own funds for the construction of toilets,” says Navneet Narwal, Program Leader, Governance and Policy Advocacy, Sehgal Foundation.

A sanitation drive in village Notki, Haryana, Nuh, went on for four days. Seventy-two villagers participated and forty trolleys of waste and garbage were removed from village streets. Temporary drainage systems were created at different points in the village to reduce wastewater logging, and approximately INR 80,000 was raised in kind. Within two months, Notki’s streets were made clean. This exercise is repeated every two months by the villagers as an independent initiative so that the drive is sustainable – a vital element.

Kashmiri Devi, sanitation ambassador of village Dhadoli, Nuh, adds: “It gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction that I have been a part of this cleanliness drive in my village. I believe that open defecation needs to be stopped with immediate effect. Besides this, I  continue to mobilize communities and generate awareness amongst villagers on the importance of health and sanitation. ”

Besides sanitation drives, the importance of tree plantation is also emphasized through various plantation drives. One such initiative was with the District Legal Services Authority (DSLA), under which 2,500 samplings were planted. The sanitation ambassadors also engage in the upkeep of the sampling, which is a crucial component of the drive.

Initiatives are many, but the success of any endeavour rests on the joint participation of all stakeholders involved.

As well known industrialist Henry Ford once said: “Team Work is something like this…coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”

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