#Issues

Vimala Kadam is Making this Karnataka Village Open Defecation Free

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Vimala Kadam, a college student from Chikkodi Taluk in Karnataka, was recently awarded the ‘Best Leader 2018’ award at the 8th Yuva Summit held at Hubballi. Since, 2016, she has been tirelessly working towards convincing villagers of Umarani to build toilets in their house. Such has been her effort that she is merely 100 toilets short of making the village open defecation free.

Beginnings of the movement

In 2016, Kadam came across a line of elderly men and women who were waiting to cross the road and head to the fields for defecation. The sight immediately moved her to take action. She went to the Panchayat officers and talked them into starting a campaign for building toilets in every village house. She, along with the help of her classmates and lecturers, began implementing the campaign, with guidance from the LEAD foundation.

Read: 14-Year-Old Girl Protest Against Open Defecation, Inspires 35 Others

Lack of Awareness

While the gram panchayat was willing to give funds for the construction of toilets under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, the families were reluctant due to lack of awareness. They hesitated to build toilets in the same house where they worshipped their gods, thereby preferring the fields as their defecation place. After repeated visits to their houses and extended conversations with the village community, Kadam and her team were finally able to convince the villagers to adopt sanitation means. They collected the documents from the villagers and submitted them to the Panchayat office for funds. Seeing some villagers get funds up to 15k other villagers also caved in and a cycle of construction began.

“It was difficult to convince the villagers. I used to visit the village after college hours as I was distressed about the troubles they faced due to lack of toilets. There was a direct link to increasing rape cases, incidents of snakebite and filth polluting their living environment,” she said to The TOI. Further, she added that the taluk panchayat officer had approached her to help create awareness in six more villages. “I will start work in the other villages once exams are over,” she said.

Astonishing Results

The work done by Vimala Kadam has created ground level changes in the village. In 2016, less than 20% households had a toilet. With extensive efforts and awareness campaigns, the village today has 800 toilets, having a coverage of over 90% households. The villagers no longer have to travel for kilometers for defecation. Adoption of hygienic methods has also decreased the frequency of diseases among the people. Such ground level work is required in several more villages to make our country open defecation free.

Read: Forest Officer Built Nearly 500 Toilets In Kerala’s Tribal Colonies

Nimisha is an intern with SheThePeople.TV