Communicating the benefits of toilet usage is critical to bringing about the desired behaviour change. It is more so when changing mindset of people for whom defecating in the open has been a traditional practice, followed through the ages. Ms Sweta Mohanty IAS, the district administrator of Wanaparthy district of Telangana has hit upon a traditional folk art form as a highly effective medium to communicate the sanitation (Swachhata) message to the people of the district.
Palle Suddulu – Interactive folk art
Palle Suddulu is one such popular art form of Telangana that features a narrative format wherein every character introduces him or herself to the audience by commenting upon his/her own deeds, in the form of songs and dialogues in their local tongue. It helps the audience to engage emotionally to such an extent and immerse in the theatre assuming the play to be a real situation of the village.
The cast comprises of 5-7 members with 4 people forming the chorus while three people represent the main characters who engage with the community on and off during the discourse. This format passes on the message with humour and hence is received easily. The entire performance is expected to leave a strong imprint on all age groups from children to the elderly people. This art form also instigates the people to engage in discussions about the message in their household post performance. This was found to be very effective as it addresses the notions of old and middle aged villagers who are hard to convince otherwise.
In this case, the district administration had earlier provided an orientation to help the folk artistes prepare content that is both relevant to the context, and that which effectively conveys the need to build and use toilets and follow safe sanitation practices. The district administration has planned one performance a day at a new Gram Panchayat.
According to ZSBP-Wanaparthy, Bharat Kumar Ganji, most of the time, the artistes speak the mind of the villagers and immerses them in the dialogue. “They play characters of the villagers and initiate a conversation with the main person narrating the content,” he said.
Palle Suddulu has been an effective IEC tool which is assisting the district administration in raising demand for toilets and transforming the villages into “Swachh Villages”. Of late, this IEC tool along with other IPC initiatives such as Vigilance Committees has helped in self declaration of 50 Gram Panchayats as ODF on the eve of the celebration of Telangana State Formation Day on June 2nd 2018.
Vigilance committees have been formed in all GPs of the district involving a few village level functionaries, people representatives and active community members. These committees engage in IPC activities on a daily basis with the open defecators. Such action of the committees has impacted the village community so positively that they have started immersing voluntarily in the activities of the committees for the greater good of the village. Community engagement in sanitation as a prime motto, the district is planning to make 100% sanitation accessible by building another 23,000 toilets in couple of months.
In October 2014, at the start of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign, the district had its share of challenges, but every household was triggered through various awareness building exercises using the community approach to sanitation (CAS) approach.
With a view to meeting their deadline, to become open defecation free (ODF) on 2nd October, 2018, various other activities have been planned by the District Magistrate. This includes a Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) programme and other activities to ensure ODF plus and ODF sustainability activities.