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Where Children Lead the Sanitation Drive

t was only after Guruji (teacher) intervened and spoke to my father that he agreed to have it installed, said Sahu.

Baindas Sahu, headmaster of the middle school, said children are positive agents of change as they can break down the mindsets of their parents.

"Children do not always listen to their parents, but they have great respect for their teacher and so they pass on our message. In some cases we give the added push by meeting the parents concerned to convince them," he pointed out.

In addition, monthly meetings are held with parents at which issues like personal hygiene, safe drinking water practices and toilet hygiene are discussed.

At Pandadah village, about 48 km away from Rajnandgaon, a similar school-centric approach to the campaign can be seen. In Markamtola and Pandadah villages, both recipients of this year's Nirmal Gram Puruskar, the role of women's self help groups and metanins (women health workers) have been crucial for the success of the total sanitation objective.

Tough is a mild word to describe the hurdles faced by Rashida Khan, a health worker at Pandadah, in promoting indoor toilet use. "Nobody was willing to listen. They grumbled that toilets within the vicinity of the home caused the spread of diseases and not open-air defecation," she said.

"I, along with members of the self help group made countless door-to-door visits to sensitise the villagers. At one point we even took to snatching their lotas (water pots) to force them to use latrines," she added.

The women found an unlikely supporter in Baisakhulal, the watchman. "The roads were so dirty that even buses would avoid this route. People jeered at me wondering whether I had nothing better to do than talk of such matters. But pride in my village made me ignore their taunts and keep after them till we could all proudly claim to become a Nirmal gram (clean village)," he said.

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