People in Gollapadu Gram Panchayat would never forget the two children – Seshu Babu (7) and Nagaraju (8) who lost their lives owing to snake bite when they went to defecate in the open ten years ago. It was no doubt a tragedy that the village continues to reel from; but the incident was one of the motivating factors that made the village open defecation free (ODF).
Significantly, the village Sarpanch is Obbani Kumari, a woman who is well aware of the problems of defecating in the open, particularly for women and the elderly. She works by the motto, “Dignity and respect to women in society,” which has inspired others in her community to feel as strongly about the issue as she is, leading to many taking up the construction of individual household toilets in this village in Muppala Mandal of Guntur district.
When the Swachh Bharat Mission campaign began in this 530 household strong GP with people from various communities such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes and others comprising its residents, the GP was short of 51 toilets to attain the ODF tag.
The GP team with support from the Sarpanch, ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwife) and field assistants worked fervently. Their task was to first convince villages to take up building toilets and informing them about the incentives available. People had to know the link between using toilets and good health; and their mindsets had to change from the age-old tradition of defecating in the open.
To spread the message effectively, wall paintings and posters were pasted at every street corner to motivate people to take up construction.
In addition, the Panchayat secretary, Khan took care of all the documentation necessary for availing support under the scheme, while mandal level officials and school teachers pitched in to support awareness building during school committee meetings.
It needs mention that a youth by the name of Narendra provided initial construction money to a few families. Some families had to be told how to make space and accommodate a facility within their homes.
Encouragingly, school children who are learning about cleaning equipment such as ‘Harpic’ are convincing their parents to buy products to keep their facilities clean. Moreover, the village has ample water, which allows homes and schools to ensure cleanliness of their toilets.