At Amritapuri today, President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind presented three village leaders with certificates verifying their respective villages as Open Defecation Free. An ODF village is one wherein all households have access to a toilet and no human waste or sewage pollutes the village surroundings.
All three village leaders hailed from villages adopted by Mata Amritanandamayi Math as part of our Amrita SeRVe (Amrita Self-Reliant Villages) program, launched in 2013. The three who received their certificates from the President were representative of 12 Amrita SeRVE villages that have recently attained ODF status: Ratanpur, Bihar; Hadiabad, Bihar; Malgaon, Chhattisgarh; Juna Khatiwada, Madhya Pradesh; Nala, Uttarakhand; Dunda, Uttarakhand; Sadivayal, Tamil Nadu; Sarai Nooruddin, Uttar Pradesh; Karanji, Chhattisgarh; Komalikudy, Kerala; Vellaramkunnu, Kerala; and Ransai, Maharashtra.
“We are very proud of these villages,” said Prof. Bhavani Rao, Amrita University’s UNESCO Chair in Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality. In many of these villages, it has been the women who have built the toilets themselves after being trained by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math in plumbing and masonry, etc. “Now, instead of their normal unskilled labor, they are challenging gender stereotypes and seeking work as skilled workers,” said Prof. Bhavani.
Besides training women to build and maintain their own toilets, we have also been training women to be Community Organizers in sanitation and hygiene awareness. The women then conduct their sanitation and health-awareness classes.
“Often these women become leaders who transform their village into a healthier, more resilient community able to meet the increasing challenges facing rural India.”Prof. Bhavani Rao
“These villages are an inspiration to the other villages we work in,” she added. “We expect many more of our adopted villages to become ODF-verified by the end of the year. In fact, this effort is just the beginning. The women in most of these villages now have set a new goal – attaining ‘Nirmal Gaon’ status, which comes only when all the villages in their district become ODF.”