Mazharkodi Dhanasekar is a woman panchayat leader in Tamil Nadu who is unafraid of taking matters into her own hands. Her biggest achievement is that she has built 650 toilets in her village, now making it free of open defection.
Dhanasekar is the panchayat leader of Melamarungoor panchayat which is very far from the nearest town. This means that district officials do not pay much attention to it, nor do they allocate extra funds towards its development.
Villagers found it difficult to even have access to drinking water, with women and schoolgirls lining up at common drinking water taps once in four days.
Dhanasekar tells India Spend that she wanted to change that. She said that the district administration would only take notice of panchayats like hers if they were completely transformed.
When she took over office of the panchyat, she realised that grants meant for 8 villages had not been allocated properly. So she made sure to get those grants, after petitions and going from office to office. She then took five years to have pipes laid in villages.
She spent only Rs 13,500 per toilet and built 650 toilets in the panchayat. This is much lower than the average cost of Rs 20,000 per toilet, according to India Spend.
She even paid Rs 10,000 out of her own pocket to contribute to the panchayat’s development. Her family owns 15 acres of land and has a money-lending business. She wants to make her panchayat a model one. Her story is inspiring and shows how much impact one can have with just perserverance, determination and not much else.