Champions of Change
Friday, December 21, 2018
The Center for Women’s Empowerment & Gender Equality organized a three-day International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment, Vulnerability Mapping and Community-led Sanitation that took place at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. In addition to high level delegates from around the world, over 90 female sanitation “Champions of Change” from 18 states and 21 villages in India attended the colloquium to share their first-hand knowledge of the changes that have taken place in their communities over the last three years.
After attending a workshop to learn how to deliver a speech and participate in an academic discussion, many village women shared their insights on stage. Amrita SeRVe village coordinator, Seema Ben, gave a speech in which she discussed the impact of these changes on Nani Borvai, her village in Gujarat.
“In the beginning, Amrita SeRVe formed Self-Help Groups (SHG) for women in Nani Borvai. Now there are 12 SHGs functioning. The SHG women attended toilet training sessions organized by AMMACHI Labs, built 55 toilets, and taught the villagers how to use them. Around the same time, to avail themselves of the pending government toilet scheme, SHG women filled out an application for the Collector’s office. Now every house has a toilet.”
Another SHG success story involves a milk collection unit. “We had tried to start a milk collection unit for a long time,” Seema relates to her audience. “We used to sell milk in other villages 3 – 4 km away. During rainy season this was especially difficult, for the milk would often spoil. Either the children had to leave school to sell it or the women had to leave their household work behind and go themselves. So the SHGs and all the village women decided to conduct a meeting. They visited Amul Dairy at Anand and met with the director. He agreed to cooperate and asked us to submit the documents, which we did. A huge inauguration program was held in the village. The director, members of the Legislative Assembly, and district level officers attended, too. The entire village participated. Now the milk collection is going well. Everyone is happy, and I am, too,” she concludes.
In addition to acquiring toilets, Seema touched upon a few other points about her village SHGs:
- Regular awareness sessions (Life Enrichment Education, LEE) on sanitation are conducted during SHG meetings
- SHG women have access to bank loans for small investments.
- In addition to holding awareness programs, SHG women support all activities in the village, including regular cleaning drives and rallies.