With a view to meeting the shortfall of masons to construct toilets, as a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G) campaign, Jharkhand has development a plan to create a pool of women masons.
On the need for women to take of this hitherto male bastion, UNICEF’s Kumar Premchand (water, sanitation and hygiene specialist) said, “In Jharkhand, there are many districts which have acute shortage of masons to work in SBM. Even after many rounds of training, the district was not able to match the requirement.”
Therefore, with the support of the livelihood mission, Drinking Water and Sanitation Department and UNICEF, the SBM team decided to develop a plan to create a pool of women masons, initially in four districts.
“It was rather difficult to convince women and member of SHGs (self-help groups), as traditionally it was the men who worked as masons, also called Raj Mistris while women would support them as unskilled labourers,” Premchand added.
Fortunately, the programme was well accepted by the livelihood mission as one area of creating skills while supporting and contributing to the required masons for the toilet construction programme.
It was an SHG member from Simdega district who coined the term – RANI MISTRI (in place of Raj Mistri- as Raj refers to a male name).
Observing the success of this initiative, the Government of Jharkhand had asked districts to create such a pool of Rani Mistris in all districts and organise a Rani Mistri Sammelan on International Women’s Day.
On Women’s Day of 2018 (March 8), women mason conventions were held in all districts of the state, seeing the participation of more than 100,000 women including more than 20,000 Rani Mistris.
Incidentally, the Prime Minister of India, during his radio address of February 2018 (Mann Ki Baat) had expressed words of appreciation for the month long Swachhta Sankalp Abhiyan in Jharkhand. The special drive was planned by women SHGs and around 70,000 women masons and SHG members participated, leading the sanitation drive. The outcome of that special drive that was supported by UNICEF in terms of planning and monitoring, was that around 200,000 additional households were given access to sanitation within a month.