Unstoppable Women: A Story of Triumph

Unstoppable Women: A Story of Triumph

According to the journey of SBI YFI Fellow Piyush Kuhikar, Chandrakala Malik proudly states, “Yes, we all did”. In Mandapathar, a tiny hamlet located in the deep forest of Odisha’s Ganjam district, a remarkable achievement has been accomplished: the village has become “open defecation-free.” Despite the lack of infrastructure in Mandapathar, with no roads or electricity, the village has overcome the challenges of contaminated water and diseases such as scabies and diarrhea.

Gram Vikas Brings Change

In 2011, Gram Vikas, an organization dedicated to improving water and sanitation services, arrived in the community. At a village meeting, Gram Vikas officials presented the idea of providing sanitary facilities and a 24-hour water supply to each house in the village. Initially, the concept seemed absurd to the residents, but the women were eventually convinced through repeated meetings. The men, however, remained skeptical, so the women took matters into their own hands.

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The Women Take the Lead

To fund the construction of individual toilets, each household was asked to contribute $1,000 to a corpus fund that would be deposited in a bank. As the family grew, the interest earned on this money would be used to build more toilets. The villagers were also asked to provide the raw materials for the construction, such as bricks, which they made themselves, as well as sand and gravel for the concrete mixture. Gram Vikas aided in the construction process, teaching the villagers brickwork and securing a government subsidy for the project.

However, the women faced a challenge in raising the required funds, as the men refused to contribute. In response, the Maa Thakurani Self Help Group, made up of women in the village, pledged $16,000 to the corpus fund for 16 households, demonstrating their determination and motivation to see the project through. When the men also refused to help with the construction, the women learned masonry and built the toilets themselves.

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A Success Story of Unstoppable Women 

By 2013, all of the toilets had been installed, and a tank was built to provide a 24-hour water supply to the village using a solar-powered pump. The community now pays a monthly maintenance cost of $30 to maintain and repair the pump. Scabies and diarrhea are no longer a problem in Mandapathar, and the villagers are no longer reliant on the government for water.

In recognition of the women’s hard work and determination, Gram Vikas now wants to provide them with training in revenue generation. The unstoppable women of Mandapathar have happily agreed to this opportunity, further demonstrating their eagerness to improve their community and their own lives.