Time to be a superwoman, not just a woman!
A normal village girl named, Vimala had the vision to recognize the open defecation problem in her village and had the guts to bring the change. Basic needs of a man demand food, water, clothing, and shelter. But with the current scenario, it is not just these 4 aspects that play a major role but education, sanitation, and healthcare jump up in the hierarchy of living. If sanitation plays a major role then the myth that there cannot be a toilet in the same house you worship God must be destroyed. Living to the fact that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, our LEADer Vimala. Kadam turns out to be a superwoman of her village to take the grip to build toilets in every house of the village.
There are also strong gender impacts: the lack of safe, private toilets makes women and girls vulnerable to violence and is an impediment to girls’ education. Women are at risk of sexual molestation and rape as they search for places for open defecation that are secluded and private, often during hours of darkness.
Defecating in the open takes its toll on human safety and dignity. The loss of privacy is particularly pointed for women and girls in developing countries. They face the shame of having to defecate in public so often wait until nightfall to relieve themselves. They risk being attacked after dark, though it means painfully holding their bladder and bowels all day. Women in developing countries increasingly express fear of assault or rape when having to leave the house after dark. Reports of attacks or harassment near or in toilet facilities, as well as near or in areas where women defecate openly, are common.
“Women who use open defecation sites like open fields or the side of a railway track are twice as likely to get raped when compared with women using a home toilet,” the study says.
THE FIRST BRICK OF START
This story is about a determined and a great example for women power, LEADer Vimala from A. A. Patil College of Arts and Commerce, Chikodi. A student of Political Science (BA fourth semester) at AA Patil Women’s College, her extra curricular work has won her awards. A silent girl who has the willpower to do something for society, lives a life of calm and peace. Vimala is a passionate and courageous girl who has a passion for social service and always had a will to do something big for the society. Just like others, she had dreams too, and those dreams were for a better society. She realized that she wished to dedicate her life to society and for society.
It was back in 2016 when a usual day wasn’t usual enough for Vimala when she came across unusual scenario near a village in Nippani where few elderly men and women were heading to the fields for defecation. This sight made Vimala fall in dilemma of where her village is heading. Defecting in fields? Is this why the fields are made for? If no, then what are the toilets in the house meant for? All these questions gambled throughout her way.
Well, she needed a solution for this instead of worrying about what is happening. That’s when she came up with the thought of one toilet in each house.
With the idea in her mind, Vimala came forward to implement it. But it wasn’t as easy as she even thought. She needed a foundation, a support, and a motivation. Vimala was LEADer Vimala as she was a part of Deshpande Foundation’s, LEAD who lend their helping hand to proceed with the idea Vimala had.
The basic idea that Vimala proposed was to reach each house to build a toilet with the help of the Gram Panchayat. The main motto of this project intended to help the girls and women who were not comfortable in going to field for defecation. And thereafter she started approaching the Gram Panchayat for the main requirement i’e Funding.
LEADer Vimala with her location Program Manager Ms. Vishakha.C planned up the whole plot of working on this project. Sooner or later this project was predicted to be huge if the plot worked well. With the help of Gram Panchayat, they were soon able to get the funding for this rightful and healthy motto. This motto was going to help the villagers to not go the fields for defecation and spread the unwanted diseases in the village.
While the gram panchayat was willing to give funds for the construction of toilets under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, challenges were all set to welcome her.
LEADer Vimala wanted to educate every individual of her village regarding the benefits of having the toilets constructed. She announced a rally wherein she, along with her team visited every corner of the village and explained the need. During the rally she collected all the contact details of the visited houses. Then on she kept following up until the construction was complete.
CHALLENGES WERE ICED
The construction started off with good vibes as matured and educated families understood the main reason for Vimala to struggle. Not all were equally educated and that was the time when Vimala had to taste the drawback of her idea. The villagers had no intention of absorbing what Vimala was trying to convince and many of them did not even give a chance to do so. That was when Vimala recognized the primary problem and she rolled back to the start of educating the villagers of the situation.
Program Manager Vishakha always believed in her LEADers and also gave constant support to the ideas and plans. She says, “Vimala is a bright LEADer and with her husband’s help she is an huge example for the woman in her locality”. The idea of changing the infrastructure of the housed made the villagers furious without even knowing why that was even needed.
The orthodox mentality played a strong game as the villagers believed that they cannot defecate in the same house where they worship God. Changing this mentality was a big task for Vimala and the team. Women barely accepted how difficult their life was to defecate in open areas.
Villagers did not know the effects of defecation in open and had no clue what it did to their health and hence Vimala and her team started a campaign for awareness of having toilets in their respective houses.
THE REALITY UNVEILED
As the campaign started, the idea was pretty much clear and loud of what intentions were upheld for the campaign. Vimala stood out and explained that about open defecation effects. She also told the villagers that young children are particularly vulnerable to ingesting feces of other people that are lying around
after open defecation, because young children crawl on the ground, walk barefoot, and put things in their mouths without washing their hands.
She highlighted that the Government of India has taken up an initiative called Swachh Bharat Mission wherein a large scale drive has been initiated to construct toilets on a mass level. And with this, they could eradicate the open defecation soon in their village.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity “- World Health Organization, 1948.
“It was difficult to convince the villagers. I used to visit the village after college hours as I was distressed about the troubles they faced due to lack of toilets. There was a direct link to increasing rape cases, incidents of snakebite and filth polluting their living environment,” she says. One of the Beneficiary, Jayashri kamble from Hirekodi, says “Vimala has done something which no one did till date and this has helped the woman as we were the suffering the most. Now the villagers use their own toilets and there is no sense of disease around”.
THE REWARDS WERE FAIR
With the huge count of 1425 toilets, LEADer Vimala set an amazing example for the villagers and also all other villages around. With sheer determination and her strong team support, she was able to reach the success of covering maximum houses in that village. She was appreciated by her college, family, media and all the beneficiaries. Her story was covered is many of the newspapers like Times of India, local newspapers, and news channels. She was awarded many awards throughout her journey and one of which was the ‘Best Leader 2018’ award at the 8th Yuva Summit held at Hubballi.
THE NEED IS REAL
In 2016, where around 20% of households had a toilet, now with great efforts and awareness campaigns, the village has 1425 toilets, covering over 90% of households. The villagers have the complete facility and the women in the village are happy as they no longer have to travel for kilometers for defecation. The disease rate has merely dropped down and all that’s needed for a change is “Determination like Vimala”.
The statistical data says that about 892 million people, or 12 percent of the global population, practiced open defecation in 2016. Seventy-six percent (678 million) of the 892 million people practicing open defecation in the world live in just seven countries. Now it’s time that we hold hands just like Vimala as rule out these mis-happenings from our country.
Written By: Rasika Mangale