With a view to ensuring that all girl students in the rural district of Chamarajanagar District of Karnataka have access to toilets in their homes, and to provide awareness about menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and other pertinent issues, the district administration launched the USHA campaign.
Having commenced on 25th November (International Day for Elimination of Violence against women), activities of the USHA campaign continued through National Girl Child Day on 24th January and ended on March 8, 2017.
An acronym for ‘Understand, Sensitize, Help and Achieve,’ USHA was an intensive campaign to ensure that no girl child was left behind, according to CEO, Zilla Panchayat, Hephsiba Korlapati.
Considering that the district is among the most backward in the country in terms of literacy and other human development indicators; with child marriage, teenage pregnancies and malnutrition prevalent, the campaign was intended to address a pressing need.
The main objectives of the campaign were to enable an equitable and decent life for every girl child in the district; to restore her rights and dignity; and to give her identity and space. In the process, access to toilets and menstrual hygiene management were given substantial focus.
In this context, teachers across the district volunteered to be mentors and worked beyond the call of their normal duty, alongside functionaries of the Zilla Panchayat, participating in a gamut of activities that converged with various government schemes.
For starters, a 3-day training programme was held for mentors, parents and students on – leadership skills; personal hygiene, decision making, problem solving, gender issues, budgeting, and writing to authorities. It concluded with administering of a pledge and a signature campaign by students.
The session on personal hygiene included the importance of hand washing, a discussion on good sanitation practices, a drama on health, child care practices; MHM, use of sanitary napkins, etc. While girl students were taught to make sanitary napkins, small size sanitary manufacturing units were also set up in their hostels.
In addition, a trained mentor was appointed for every gram panchayat who held meetings with students and their parents. Efforts were also made to improve facilities at girls’ hostels and academic performance of class 10 students while special focus was given to weak students. Moreover, there was career guidance and counseling for skill development; and discussions on life skills, nutrition and health.
As a part of the campaign, Girl Child Week and National Girl Child Day were observed, and the entire district was roped into the celebrations – human chains were formed in all villages, march of pride was taken, pledges were reaffirmed, and cycle rallies were carried out.
The campaign reached out to at least 4 lakh people through students and their parents. Further, successful women from different walks of life were asked to address and inspire the women folk. As for the school parliament, it featured a discussion on women issues.
Toilet access and construction was given considerable focus. In Chamarajanagar, as many as 7000 toilets were constructed between 1st April 2016 and 25th November 2016. However, between 25th November 2016 and 24th January 2017, when the campaign was in mission mode, 10,000 toilets were constructed and another 8000 are in the process of being constructed, Korlapati said.
The success of the campaign could be attributed to the involvement of all women. On 26th January, a team of over 520 girls and women, 130 USHA mentors, 130 student champions, 130 ASHA workers, 130 Anganwadi workers – each representing the 130 Gram Panchayats in the district participated in an impressive performance at the district headquarters.