On a Hand Washing Mission: Young Girls Herald Change in Community
Rani block of Kamrup district where Chandana and her class mates lives is dominated by the Bodo and the Rabha tribes of Assam. The beautiful landscape used to be marred by frequent outbreaks of diarrhoea and dysentery due to lack of sanitation and hygiene.
t’s not just about classroom lessons and rules to be followed in school. Chandana Daimary, a vivacious little girl studying in the fifth grade of the Sajjanpara Primary School of Assam
And she goes all out to spread this good practice among her family members and the rest of the community.Rani block of Kamrup district where Chandana lives is dominated by the Bodo and the Rabha tribes of Assam
Thanks to the support provided by the Sarba Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a national flagship Education programme of the Government and UNICEF, with technical support from the North East Cell of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE)
The initiative ensures that children have a safe and protective learning environment in schools with community participation as an integral element. The school is one of the twenty schools in the district which has been selected to demonstrate the CFSS approach in which water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)— crucial components of the Right to Education Act -- are an integral part.
According to the World Health Organisation, 88 per cent diarrhoeal disease is caused by unsafe water supply and inadequate sanitation and hygiene. “I tell my mother that she must wash her hands with soap after using the toilet, and before eating her food.
Ten-year-old Nabanita Bodo of the same class is equally enthusiastic of religiously following the ritual of hand washing, as well as ensuring that her large family of 10 members, do the same. “My grandparents are a little slow to learn.
“Ever since we adopted this practice, our health has improved. Earlier my family used to have stomach ailments or fever every now and then. Now that we know the importance of washing our hands properly, it has become part of our daily routine,” she adds
But the winds of change have not just blown through their immediate families. Both Chandana and Nabanita have been especially vocal about spreading the good health practices in their community as well. Jeroo Master, Chief, UNICEF Assam Field Office acknowledges this
The girls are also aware of the ill effects of open defecation. “Open defecation is an unhealthy habit. It attracts flies, which spreads germs and leads to many diseases,” Nabanita says. Chandana shares that although her home now has a toilet, it was not there before. “Earlier we used to go out, in the forest to relieve ourselves. But now we have a toilet. It’s much more healthy, plus easier and safer for us to use,” she says.
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