Rani Mistris pave the wave for a Swachh Jharkhand


With a view to meeting the shortfall of masons to construct toilets, as a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (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.


An ODF GP with fewer diarrhea cases, thanks to Bonti Saikia

Her methods to convince people about safe sanitation practices were simple.  She was persistent as she moved ahead with a clear understanding of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) goal which is to have a healthier society.  Meet Bonti Saikia, president of Charaipani gram panchayat (GP) in Johat district of Assam.

Bonti SaikiaOwing to the dedicated efforts of Bonti Saikia, the wife of Indreswar Baruah Jatin Saikia, all households – those listed in the baseline survey (BLS) and those not listed, have access to sanitation facilities, making the panchayat open defecation free (ODF) on 2nd October, 2017, a year after the campaign was launched.  The latter were achieved through CSR funds of ONGC.

Today, all the residents of Charaipani GP which comprises of three tea gardens use their toilets, having completely stopped the practice of open defecation.  The outcome of this behavior change is seen in the dramatic reduction of the number of diarrhea cases that are common after monsoons each year, mainly due to poor sanitation.  In fact, there were absolutely no cases of diarrhea at the end of the monsoon in 2017, according to the district administration.

Previously, the lady GP president had personally monitored the construction of all toilets, keeping records of contributions from NGO/SHGs (Self Help Groups) that supported construction of toilets.  She very efficiently coordinated with engineers and block coordinators of Public Health Engineering Department, ensuring that the ODF verification process of her GP was done in a proper manner.

The efforts of Bonti Saikia have inspired people of the panchayat.  She demonstrated courage, as she did everything in her power to convince authorities to ensure that all households, irrespective of being in the BLS or not, got access to sanitary facilities.  Also, she gave authentic and timely reports of all eligible households that were left out of BLS, which made it easier for the District Water and Sanitation Committee to send a proposal for CSR funds to ONGC.   Without the support of local NGOs/SHGs which she enlisted, construction of quality toilets in such a quick manner would not have been possible.

As far as behavior change is concerned, she made sure people understood the importance of using toilets.  This she did by conducting several meetings with the village people and carrying out regular inspection to check the awareness levels of the people and the quality of toilets being constructed.  If she noticed any discrepancy, she complained to the concerned engineers and set the matter right.

Her commitment to cleanliness can be seen in her GP Office, which is one of the cleanest and well maintained GP offices in the district, with proper sanitary facilities, dustbins, trees and flower gardens.

A resident of Gohainjan Gaon, Bonti Saikia, has been engaged as a Swachhagrahi for the last year and a half.  Previously, she was previously a primary school teacher, and later got involved in community work.  Currently, she is working towards an ODF sustainability process and providing safe water supply facilities to the people of her Panchayat.

(Inputs: Swati Baruah, ZSBP-Jorhat)

Incinerators installed in 5 West Singhbhum schools


With a view to facilitating safe disposal of sanitary pads, the district administration of West Singhbhum in Jharkhand has installed incinerators in as many as five schools, after providing necessary orientation to both teachers and students on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).

The five schools selected for the Swachh Vidyalaya Puraskar were – four Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas in Tonto, Chakradharpur, Khuntpani, and Sadar Chaibasa and the Aadarsh Middle school in Noamundi, according to Zila Swachh Bharat Prerak, Mrinalini Singh.

Puberty can be a challenging and confusing time in any young woman’s life.  Considering that both physical and emotional changes are immense; teachers play a vital role in educating, preparing and supporting young women cope through changes that occur.

MHM remains a very important aspect of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).  Nevertheless, at times, it can be overlooked during the toilet construction drive.  But in Paschim Singhbhum, the SBM team has taken a step forward in this direction in collaboration with the education department, the ZSBP said.

Installation of the incinerators was a two day event on 16th and 17th February, 2018.  On day one, 120 teachers of the aforementioned schools were oriented on the basics of menstrual hygiene management which included personal hygiene, menstrual hygiene products and safe disposal.  The orientation ended with a demonstration of the use of incinerators which were installed in the schools.

On the second day, all girls from those selected schools were given a session on MHM and they were told how to use incinerators for the safe disposal of menstrual hygiene products.  The session was comprehensive, covering all aspects of female health and hygiene.

Although both the sessions were awkward initially, initiating such a conversation about menstruation made the girls more confident and curious about their health, while encouraging them to ask questions.

7 steps to implement SBM-G to make villages ODF

7 ways

Understanding the grave situation of sanitation across the country, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi initiated the Swachh Bharat Mission on 2nd October, 2014, making a firm resolution to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2nd October, 2019.

The task ahead was not just to build toilets, but to bring about behavioral change among the communities to eliminate the practice of open defecation. Given the stipulated time frame, various activities, were implemented in Agra and Kanpur to achieve the desired results:

  1. Efficient Fund Flow System- Direct Beneficiary Transfer (DBT)

In DBT, the toilet incentive fund of Rs.12000 was directly transferred to the beneficiary’s account in two equal installments of Rs. 6000 each for construction of IHHL (Individual Household Latrines).  The first installment was disbursed on construction of twin pits with Swikriti Patra (Agreement Letter) to the District Panchayat Raj Office.   As for the second installment, it was made when the toilet was fully constructed, painted and LGD (Local Government Directory, code to uniquely identify a toilet) had been marked with “Karya Purti Patra” (Work Completion Form).

For fund transfer, the list of beneficiaries was sent to the bank, following which the bank sent back various status reports such as failure and liquidation report etc.  This helped smoothen the flow of funds, avoiding financial discrepancies.

  1. Capacity Building:
  • CLTS Workshops: Such workshops were conducted to train ground level motivators, who were further deployed in villages to sensitise the community towards sanitation.
  • Swachhta Doot Training: This was imparted to Safaikarmis, Rozgar Sevaks, and SHG’s on various aspects of SBM, with an aim to involve a larger workforce for the mission as ‘Swachhta Doot’/’Swachhagrahi’.
  • Mason Training: On-site mason training helped increase the number of twin-pit technology-trained masons.  They were further deployed at each GP, where they could train other masons to create a larger force of trained masons.  On an average, a single mason  takes 5 days to build one toilet.
  1. Monitoring through War Rooms:

An ODF War Room is a fully functional room for coordinating, implementing and real-time monitoring of daily activities of the SBM at the district and block level.  Block War rooms were initiated in Kanpur and Agra to decentralize information sharing and to monitor ground level activities.  It includes daily calls to the stakeholders and status updates on WhatsApp groups via photos of ground activities.

  1. Involvement of Ground Level Community Mobilizers:

With a view to empowering people and giving them ownership, Nigrani Samitis were formed in every village to carry out morning and evening followup.  Equipped with tool kits comprising of

a whistle, torch, cap and jacket, the teams were suitably rewarded when a village became ODF.  In addition, one trained Swachhagrahi was appointed per village to motivate people; while Safaikarmi, ASHA and Anganwadi workers and Rozgaar Sevaks were given targets.

  1. Weekly Review Meeting of Different Stakeholders by District Magistrate

For implementing a scheme like SBM, it is important to involve the highest order of District Administration extensively.  Hence, a weekly review meeting of Pradhans, Secretaries and Swachhagrahis of each village was initiated, under the leadership of the District Magistrate.

  1. High Impact Campaigns and IEC Activities

IEC activities and campaigns are very impactful and ensure sustainability, since they trigger the emotions of people thereby bringing about a sense of competition leading to behavioural change, which is the soul of the mission. Media coverage helps increase awareness among the community.  The following IEC activities were carried out:

  • On Karva Chauth, husbands who gifted toilets to their wives were awarded by the DM and were tagged as ‘№1Husbands’ of the district.
  • Kanpur became the first district in UP to implement sanitation as a subject in primary schools by introducing a book on sanitation which was included in examinations too.
  • Painting, Film Making and Essay Writing Competitions were organized in all government schools and selected students were awarded by the PM on 2nd October 2017.
  • Wall Paintings on toilets and public infrastructure created a long lasting impact on the community.
  • Sanitation vans with key sanitation messages were deployed to GPs.
  • Swachh Sports Week was organized for all government schools.
  • Vinyl Awareness Stickers on District and Block Vehicles
  • Open assembles and Mass Oath Taking Campaigns
  • Gaurav Kalash Yatra in ODF villages
  • Hoardings at public spaces
  • Mass Swachhta rallies in villages
  • Competitions such as Best Pradhan, Cleanest Village, Highest MIS, Village with best toilets, Best Swachhagrahi and CLTS team were held to create healthy competition.

By Aishwarya Mishra, ZSBP-Kanpur and Abhinav Tyagi, ZSBP-Agra


How a fly came to the help of a woman

fly storyBy Shibaji Bose

It is during the wee hours of the morning that Ms. Selvi determinedly steps out of her home in Pesumpon Nagar village in Southern Tamil Nadu, against the wishes of her husband, armed with a whistle in her hand.  Her mission is to go around the 1500 population strong village to warn those who continue defecating in the open.

Fully aware that practice of open defecation has severely harmed the health of her community, she tries to whistle people away.  When that does not work, she narrates the fly story.

“To be frank, I was not making much progress in the beginning even though I held meetings, made repeated household visits or whistled.  This was evident from the number of ‘repeat offenders’ who, even after being told, would come to particular zones to defecate,” conceded Ms Selvi, the gritty motivator of the Pesumpon Nagar village in Sakkimangalam block of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu.

It was during the Training of Trainers (TOT) meeting, organised by the panchayat with active support from the district administration and UNICEF that Ms. Selvi first heard the fly story.  “It caught my imagination and I realised that the story can be effective to influence behaviour change,” she said.

Telling the Fly story is actually a win-win communication technique to inform individuals as well as a community that continues to defecate in the open, about the hazards of even having one single open defecator in the village.  People needed to know that there is every chance that a fly or many flies can carry harmful germs from the faeces and infect residents of any or every household in the neighbourhood.

fly story2Commenting on the technique, Mr Murugan, Block Development Officer said, “The essence of this wonderful communication trigger introduced by UNICEF is that it conveys a scientific idea that can be easily understood by the villagers.”  That results came fast in the form of several applications for constructing toilets from all quarters of the village is indication enough of the effectiveness of the trigger.

Commending the tremendous efforts of Ms Selvi, ex-gram panchayat president, Mr Veeranan Palpandi said, “Having realised the ill effects of open defecation which they could be subjected to, people from the community itself began pressuring those who continued to go out to relieve themselves, persuading them to change their habits and use their toilets.”

The village is now ODF thanks to the change of perception from within among members of the community.  In all this, the panchayat, block, district and DRDA officials supported the village by providing incentive, as well as regular and timely monitoring.  The impact was palpable in a little over a year: all the households had toilets, and open defecation became a thing of the past.

According to the staff nurse of the local primary health centre, Ms Sessiliye, “There has been a significant reduction in cases of stomach aches, snake bites, and diarrhoea. We now have more of time to treat critically ill patients.”

There is another aspect that both the panchayat and block administration are proud of: the largest open defecation space in the village, which was once a haven for antisocial elements has now been completely transformed into an open green space with budding plantations.

“We will develop this green space for our future generations,” said Mr Murugan, adding that it would be the pride of the entire community.

For Ms K Selvi, a mother of three children, who has to cover about 5 GPs that are home to a population of about 30,000, residing in 3619 households in month, there has been a significant change in the attitude of her children and particularly her husband towards her. The husband, who earlier would scold her for taking up this responsibility, now drives Ms Selvi to her workplace.

It seems that a fly too can be the trigger for wonderful community outcomes.

Small innovation enhances toilet usage

small innovationBy Shibaji Bose

The cluster officials of Selanthanpatty block in Salem district were baffled that women headed households were not using the toilets constructed for them.  Despite conducting motivational meetings and carrying out activities in keeping with their open defecation free (ODF) strategies, the families were refraining from using their facilities.

According to cluster facilitator, Rajamani, the officials were curious because it was usually the women who were more inclined to build and use individual toilets, out of a sense of shame and the need for security; as seen in other places.

However, as the panchayat facilitators, block coordinator and ground level workers continued to promote ODF they had to contend with very little increase in utilisation of toilets in Pavaivattam village.

It was the panchayat level facilitator, Mehala who chanced upon the answer, based on an angry retort from a village lady whom she had been trying to motivate, albeit unsuccessfully for the last three months to utilise the toilet provided to her.

“We are adults not children. Do think that an adult can move above in a space measuring 3X4 feet with a toilet pan and the drum?  If you are so concerned about our safety and our sense of shame, don’t you think we women would also like some privacy to bathe,” the village lady asked.

Reviewing the toilet structures built so far, the cluster facilitators admitted that a 3X4 structure that accommodated a toilet pan, a bucket and a drum containing 25 litres of water was quite congested, leaving little room for the individual using the toilet to move about.  No wonder the village people of the Pavaivattam village in Selanthanpatty block adjoining Salem town, chose to continue defecating in the open.

Now, this posed two sets of genuine challenges.  Firstly, the Pavaivattam village was a small and congested hamlet and therefore it was not feasible to increase the size of the toilets.  Secondly, bathing water that drained down the toilet pan filled up the leech pits within three months, the dedicated team of engineers and masons realised.  As the normal time scale for one of the two leech pits (provided with a toilet unit) to fill up is seven years, something had to be done about it.

There followed some intensive brainstorming by the state unit with technical support from UNICEF that resulted in a major workshop for over 200 masons along with field training.

Two simple solutions solved the complex problem: An external water unit (25-litre tank) was fastened to the toilet, while the height of the toilet pit from the ground was increased from 5 cms to 15 cms.

With the problem effectively attended to, the villagers are in praise of Ramesh, the overseer and Prabhu, the block coordinator for overseeing and coordinating the construction.

“The ‘rapid launch of this new model’ and ‘scaling up’ was possible thanks to the proactive handholding support provided by WASH personnel from UNICEF State Office,” said Prabhu.

Commenting on the improved facility, Indhrani, a mother of three daughters, who earns her living selling jasmine garlands said, “I am so grateful to the ODF movement which is considerate to poor women like us. I now feel a lot safer to step out leaving my daughters behind.”

Women’s collective provides access to Izzat Ghar for all

Women's collectiveWhen women join forces, a lot can be accomplished.  Take the example of Lailavati Devi, a Swachhata Didi) from Mamta Self Help Group (JSLPS-SHG) of Barkadih gram panchayat in Manika block of Latehar district in Jharkhand.  She motivated women to join hands for the cause of sanitation so much so that they were willing to be trained in construction of toilets.  Their efforts ensured that the whole community had access to toilets which they call Izzat Ghar or house of dignity.

Situated in the naxal belt, Latehar is home to two of the highest waterfalls namely Lodh Falls and Lower Ghaghri Falls and the Betla National Park.  It is one of the country’s 250 most backward districts and one of the 24 districts in Jharkhand that is currently receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme.

Since the district is predominantly a hilly region covered by forests, accessibility is a challenge.  There is a railway line passing through the district and people who wish to get off the train often have to pull the chain, before it stops.  During the monsoons which are active in the region for about six months, commuting can be very difficult as people have to cross a river and vast forest area to get to the block headquarters.

As far as sanitation is concerned, having practiced open defecation for ages, people were used to going into the open area or jungle for their ablutions.  They had to walk more than 300 metres to find a suitable spot.  Since most people went out early in the morning, many of the women would wait until dark to relieve themselves so they could avoid being spotted upon.  The situation was rather more challenging during the monsoon when they had to avoid puddles and at the same time watch out for snakes and insects.

At the start of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign in October 2014, sanitation coverage was barely 35.42%.  The district administration carried out various awareness building and triggering exercises that emphasized the need to adopt safe sanitation practices.  They pointed out the effects of open defecation on health and well being of the community.

Unfortunately, the men folk paid scant attention to the issue.  On the other hand, the women began to take interest in the issue.  Under the leadership of Lailavati Devi, they met and discussed sanitation issues, knowing that it was up to them to bring about behavior change in their families – as the men could not be relied upon to do the job.

They had the full support of the district administration that provided incentive and masonry training and connected them with SHGs to construct toilets.

Women's collective2Even as the women were being mobilized into the campaign, they faced some resistance from people, who were pessimistic and discouraging.  Nevertheless, the women stuck together and went ahead with building their Izzat Ghars.

Owing to the last monsoon, toilet construction was delayed.  However with 98% sanitation coverage in both the village and district level, they will be declared open defecation free soon.   With nearly all of them having toilets now, the women are delighted.  We never have to go out to relieve ourselves now, they said.

(Inputs from ZSBP-Latehar)