Three women from Maharashtra’s rural areas, who raised their voice against open defecation and highlighted sanitation needs of women, were named “Swachhata Doots” (cleanliness ambassadors) for the state. Chaitali Rathod, Sangeeta Awahade and Suvarna Lokhande were appointed “Swachhata Doots” and felicitated by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai. The appointments were made on the first anniversary of the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, an ambitious civic programme of the Narendra Modi Government.
These women displayed commitment for sanitation, including building toilets, in their own different ways. Chaitali had sought a prefabricated toilet as a wedding gift over jewellery and other items from her parents in May last. Sangeeta sold her ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married Hindu women) and other jewellery for constructing a toilet at her home, while Suvarna took a loan from a women’s self help group (SHG) to build a toilet in her house.
Lauding the women for their contribution in spreading awareness about the necessity of toilets, Fadnavis said Maharashtra was proud of them. They are an inspiration for other women for taking a stand that in house toilets were their right, the CM said. Chaitali, who hails from Yavatmal, said she was shocked to know that her then would be in laws did not have a toilet in their house. “I told my parents I don’t want jewellery or clothes. But toilet was a must. My father accepted my demand and gifted me a prefabricated toilet.”
Sangeeta, a resident of a village in Washim district, rued that people in rural areas don’t realise the importance of toilets. “This is mainly due to poverty and illiteracy”. “For many years, I kept telling my husband to construct a toilet in the house. But for some reason or the other, he kept postponing taking a decision. One day, I decided that I will not allow my daughter to go out in the open for sanitation needs like I did all these years. I sold my mangulsutra and other ornaments to build a toilet. More than jewellery, toilet is important”, she maintained.
Over the last few weeks, Sangeeta has been visiting nearby villages and speaking about the need for good sanitation facilities. “I have laid the foundation stone of 7,000 toilet blocks and I intend to continue spreading awareness about the need to end open defecation”, she said. Sangeeta said her family and fellow villagers stopped talking to her when she sold her mangalsutra. “People’s attitude changed after Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde felicitated me. Washim MP Bhawna Gawli adopted my village Saikheda under the Gram Sansad scheme,” she said. Suvarna took a loan of Rs 50,000 from a SHG to build a toilet in her house and even repaid the amount.
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