The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) has completed 3 years since its launch on 2nd October 2014 and is proudly boasting milestones.
With 5,34,85,596 toilets built, 71.61% of the country has access to toilets compared to just 38.70% in 2014.
There are 228 open defecation-free (ODF) districts in India, and Davangere aspires to have its name etched on the list by November 2017.
When S. Aswathi joined as the Chief Executive Officer of Davangere Zilla Panchayat (ZP), the task of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin of constructing 77,072 toilets was carved out for her. Neither the 233 Gram Panchayats (GPs) nor the 3 talukas were ODF.
Challenges On The Path
The challenges that she faced included misconceptions, un-cooperative villagers along with lack of awareness about hygiene and cleanliness. Her approach resulted in bringing about a behavioural change, spreading awareness about the need for toilets, and mobilising the construction of the toilets.
She believed that the construction of toilets is a right of every woman. She wanted all women in the villages to receive the respect and dignity they deserve. Since then, there has been no looking back.
On The Ground Situation
Her field study that lasted a whole day from 5.30 am to around 7.30-8 pm, brought to light the limited mindset of the villagers. She faced all the lame excuses for not building a toilet with proactiveness.
Her teams always carried shovels and other tools. Once a family refused to build a toilet, S. Aswathi picked up the shovel and started digging herself. This embarrassed the head of the family, and the family continued with the toilet construction on their own.
Construction of toilets in homes which are near a temple or place of worship is discouraged. Various awareness and educational sessions were conducted with the help of ASHA and Anganwadi workers to work on deconstructing this mental block.
People in Davangere believed that no construction should take place in a home where women are pregnant or lactating. To combat this belief system, the traditional baby shower or the Seemantha programme was organised amidst traditional decorations and songs.
Seemantha is a brainchild of Kalaburagi ZP CEO, Hephsiba R Korlapati. The pregnant or lactating women were honoured, after the completion of toilet construction in their homes. 300 such women have gotten gift hampers comprising a saree, bangles, and other things.
Awareness Through Schools
The awareness about health and sanitation was promoted with the help of teachers. The approach yielded positive results. 145 students successfully constructed toilets in their houses. These ‘Swachhta Champions’ were honoured with certificates and inspirational books.
Fruits Of Labour
A whopping 45,204 toilets were constructed in the first 5 months of 2017-18 whereas 19,000 toilets were already constructed in 2016-17. Currently, 174 Gram Panchayats, 214 villages and 4 talukas have become ODF.
Efforts of S. Aswathi have been acknowledged by the Chief Minister of Karnataka. With her on the driving seat, Davangere will soon become ODF.