How toilets changed life in Hirmathla

Sarita Brara | Updated on January 24, 2018

Sew happy Homemakers learn to tailor at Hirmathla village Sarita Brara

Beautician training. Sarita Brara

Computer skills. Sarita Brara

Haryana village now hones its creative side

Less than four years ago, there was not a single toilet in the remote village of Hirmathla in the most backward district of Mewat in Haryana. Today, incredibly, several homes there boast multiple toilets each, much like high-end city apartments. Ahmed’s house, for instance, has separate toilets for each of his four sons, who share a common courtyard. His two newly-married younger sons are also asking for separate toilets.

A rare village in the district where every household has a two-pit toilet, open-defecation was the norm here not too long ago. The transformation began after Sulabh International adopted the village and built four toilets to help the villagers understand how useful they were. Soon, every house in the village had a toilet, with Railtel Corporation of India Ltd chipping in ₹12,000 per household and the beneficiary family contributing ₹3,000. In 2012, free from open defecation, the village received the Nirmal Gram Award.

Describing how day-to-day life has become easier now, Kamlesh says, “At night some elderly person had to be woken up to accompany children when they wanted to ease themselves.”

Tabassum is glad she no longer needs to go out and struggle in the dark to locate a clean place to answer nature’s call.

Additionally, Hirmathla, declared an Adarsh Sulabh village, has found a way to solve the water problem that plagues most parts of Mewat. In the absence of wells, most families have constructed kundas in their courtyards to store water. About 3ft deep, each kunda can store up to 1,500 litres of water.

The women of this village, made up largely of Meo Muslims and Hindus, toil hard in the fields, do household chores and still find the time to produce exquisite handicrafts. Their creative output includes colourful dhalias (roti containers) made from wheat stalks, indis — a frilly headgear women use when carrying water pitchers, bandhanwars — door hangings that double as doorbells, handmade fans, durries with geometrical patterns and crocheted table covers, food containers made of multani mitti (clay). These handicrafts, usually gifted to daughters during their wedding, are now fetching the village women an additional income.

Monika Jain, Vice-President (Rural) of Sulabh International, is helping the women form self-help groups for the manufacture and sale of handicrafts.

At a skill development centre started by Sulabh, school dropouts and homemakers learn to tailor, undergo beautician’s course or work on computers. Nearly 110 women receive training here in two batches. Hitherto alien words like eyebrow shaping, facials and pedicure trip easily off the lips of Dhanno Devi, whose daughter is learning to become a beautician.

Puja and Neha, who have completed Plus Two, are learning to operate computers and hope to find a job soon. The centre also serves as a comfort zone where the women share their life stories and hopes for the future. Some like Shamina, Vijaya and Susheela have overcome their initial inhibitions to work for the development of the village.

These are significant green shoots in a region where the girl child is routinely discriminated against and the female sex ratio is alarmingly low.

The writer is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist

Published on February 13, 2015

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