Around two years ago, women residing in Dahisar, a slum in Shivaji Nagar, West Mumbai, were, forced to use the community toilets of their locality due to lack of options. Unfortunately, due to lack of lighting and loosely fitted doors, it was less of convenience and more of embarrassment for them.
Fortunately, things are taking a turn around. Due to intervention of UNICEF, which engaged young girls from the slums, and also brought along NGOs, the conditions are on the path of improvement and are being improved as more and more youngsters are volunteering towards making more clean, safe and hygienic toilets, not only in Dahisar, but also in the slums of other localities.
It would be incomplete, if the appreciation comes without mentioning the heroines, who are also the pioneers of this action.
So, it all started with 13 years old Sandhya Sahu and 14 years old Kiran Sharma, who, pledged to change the situation. They led a group of girls and organized an awareness camp in July 2014 in order to transform the pathetic plight of deprived localities.
It was the fruit of their efforts that the toilets now, not only have tight doors but also there are proper arrangements of lights.
When asked about the same, kiran said, “We created awareness about the issue in our community through the various projects we made at the Child Resource Centre,”
Not to forget, the second heroine, Sandhya, who was a part of the NGO, Committed Communities Development Trust (CCDT), added, “A group of children from our NGO went and applied to the Bombay Municipal Corporation to get lights and a door for the toilet at Shivaji Nagar.”
Due to Kiran and Sandhya’s influence, other children of the localities such as sagar, Pradeep, Ashvini and Jarnia including Kiran and Sandhya are now called “Swachchata Doots” or “Cleanliness Ambassadors”. They are among those 24 children of Mumbai, who participated recently in the trophy tour of the ICC T20 World Cup 2016.
These children attended a WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) clinic and interacted with renowned cricketers, Sameer Dighe and Diana Edulji, at Wankhede stadium, Mumbai.
Appreciating them, the cricketers discussed the importance of sanitation, hygiene and cleanliness with the children. Interestingly, they also shared cricketing tips with the children.
Luckily, this effort is not restricted within the boundaries of a slum or a locality but is flourishing in different areas of Mumbai.
Evidently, these Swachchata Doots are among 2,500 children from Mumbai, covered by UNICEF Maharashtra’s child protection programme that partners with NGOs such as Pratham Mumbai Education Initiative, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) and CCDT. Unanimously, they aim to create safe urban spaces for children.
Vikas Chaurasiya, also from CCDT, said, “Since diseases spread because of not washing hands, we try to make people of our community understand the importance of washing hands.”
Apart from Shivaji Nagar, the project touches the lives of children in the surrounding areas the lives of children in the surrounding ares as well, such as Rafi Nagar in Chembur (M/East Ward) and Lallubhai Compound in Mankhurd (M/East Ward).
Lallubhai Compound has its own heroes. Sagar Reddy, 17, and Pradeep Karande, 16, identified an abandoned maidan which was being used as a waste-dumping ground.
YUVA staff supported them in mobilizing the government machinery concerned to get the maidan, cleared of garbage. Also, they helped them in creating awareness about the importance of keeping the maidan garbage free and promoted the use of dustbins.
There is also Team Swachh that is an integrated nationwide initiative to build a social movement for sanitation and toilet use. Also, it focuses on raising awareness about challenges faced by disadvantaged children, and focuses on improving sanitation.
Successfully, today the space has undergone a complete makeover. Children from all age groups come to play here as it has been converted into a play ground. Sagar and Pradeep not only reclaimed the space for the public but made it safe for children. Their initiative, guided by UNICEF, has also led to better hygiene practices in the locality.
Similarly, in an exercise carried out at Rafi Nagar, which more or less see only kaccha homes being built around a huge dumping ground.
Children here play on untidy and poorly paved streets, littered with paper and plastic bags. To bring a change in the area, Ashvini Kori, just 15 and Jarina Ansari from the neighborhood volunteered to ensure that their parents, grandparents, neighbors and other people related to them learn personal jhygiene and promote s much as they can. The two children mentioned above also took part in handwash and hygiene camps organized by Pratham.