BADHANI, India, 03 October 2018 - Rita, 18, and Sadhana, 13, are two determined girls who led a sanitation campaign in Badhani - a remote and conservative village in Shrawasti district that borders Nepal. Shrawasti has the highest rates of child marriage (68%) for girls.
A few months ago, Rita and Sadhana attended a Community-Led Total Sanitation Training (CLTS) supported by UNICEF, where they realized the importance of toilets for a healthy life.
A student of class 12, Rita says, “For the first time I understood how open defecation impacts our health. It was soon after the training that we spoke with other children in our village and together decided to start a campaign to make our village open defecation free (ODF).”
This young brigade of unstoppable child campaigners went house-to-house, talking to the community about the harmful effects of open defecation. Waking up early each morning, the children donned bright neon jackets and whistled at those defecating in the open. To the offenders, they passionately explained the health hazards for the entire village if even one family defecated in the open.
The children found a staunch ally in the village head, Dilbahar Khan, who lent his voice to the Open Defecation Free (ODF) campaign.
The result was evident with new toilets being built and more importantly, the change in behaviours. “Now, we do not stay overnight at any relative’s house that does not have a toilet. We discourage all our relatives who have been defecating in the open,” says a converted Lallu, Sadhana’s father.
Lakhpata, Sadhana’s grandmother thanks her granddaughter for her perseverance and says, “I had never heard about a ‘toilet’ earlier and had always been going to the field. Now toilets at home have made life so easy, especially during monsoons.”
Champions across Uttar Pradesh are embracing the Swachh Bharat Mission and are ensuring that families and communities build toilets and more importantly continue using toilets. This social movement combined with the huge impetus by the government to the sanitation programme has resulted in 89 per cent toilet coverage in the state.