From victim to victor: the story of Kalpana

Kumari Kalpana from Kundol, UP

Kumari Kalpana, daughter of Premsingh Yadav from the Kundol gram panchayat in the district of Agra in Uttar Pradesh was recently made the brand ambassador of the ODF (open defecation free) movement in the district of Etah.  It was a series of unfortunate events including the death of several loved ones that led to a sorry state of affairs for the young graduate.  However, despite her tragic circumstances she openly advocated the need for toilets to keep intact the dignity of women and others in the society.

Not too long ago, Kalpana was betrothed to be married to a young lad from district of Etah, also in Uttar Pradesh.  The marriage was to take place on 8th May, 2017.  As the wedding day approached, there was excitement and anticipation amongst family and friends alike; while Kalpana had mixed feelings.  Although she looked forward to starting a new life with the man chosen for her, she knew that going for further studies was out of question and that she would greatly miss her family and friends.

The various rituals for the wedding began on 4th May, 2017 amidst much laughter and celebration.  As fate would have it, there was a road accident that killed 18 members of her family, including her brother and uncles; turning the atmosphere to one of mourning.  The incident made national news, even bringing the Chief Minister of the State to her home to offer condolences.

However, both families decided that the marriage must go on as per schedule.  During the ceremony, Kalpana was in a state of shock as numbness and disbelief descended on her like a fog.  This continued until she was taken to her in-laws home in Etah.

Early, the next morning, she was given a bottle of water so she could go out to relieve herself.  Having had the use a toilet in her home, Kalpana felt indignant as her dignity was threatened.  Such thoughts took prominence despite her sorrow from the recent bereavement.  People would eventually get over the death of a loved one.  But when someone’s self esteem is lost, it can never be regained, she thought.

Meanwhile, owing to the tragic accident, people had already heard of the family.  But when word got around that the household did not have a toilet, it added to the discussion until the district officer, Amit Kishore got wind of it.  He sent an official to the home of Kalpana and thereafter a decision was made to quickly construct a low cost model of a leach pit toilet.

The toilet built by masons who were trained by Panchayat Raj Department on 11th May, was a gift to the bride.  Thereafter, Kalpana was made a brand ambassador for advocating the need for toilets in all homes.

May 24, 2017

Source:  Manoj Shukla, Consultant, Swachh Bharat Mission, Uttar Pradesh

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