Thirty-six-year-old Latha had led a simple life of a housewife in the village of Dinnepayla in Nelamangala tehsil with her husband, daughter and son. She was always keen on working outside but never got an opportunity in the village. In her village, she was the president of her Self-Help Group (SHG) but was not much aware of people in her community or what they did. Ultimately, this meant that her daily life revolved around her home and family with limited interactions with the outside world.
Things changed when Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), WaterAid India’s partner in the region, approached Latha’s SHG for volunteers for their baseline survey. Latha decided to seize the opportunity. She performed well in the work-related survey and was again approached by SVYM to take on the role of a WASH promoter in four villages (Dinnepalya, Kachanalli, Machonayakanahalli, Narasimayyanapalya) in their project area.
In August 2018, she and 20 other women were trained as WASH promoters. In December 2019, she was one of the 10 members who were re-elected to continue with this role. As a village WASH promoter, Latha is required to spread awareness in the community on hygiene, sanitation, water use and its conservation through individual household meetings. They also began arranging sessions and workshops on WASH in the village Anganwadi and schools, with Self-Help Groups and Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committees. They have also been ensuring that all group/committee meetings happen on time and that all people attend those meetings regularly.
“Initially nobody responded when I started going from house to house. I was worried that perhaps I was not doing my job well. Then I thought that I should continue to do my best and not let anything else matter. Now, everybody knows me well, they are happy to see me and listen to what I have to say”, Latha continued.
According to her, people are slowly changing their hygiene practices and getting aware about health and water related issues. Earlier, even though people washed hands, they did not know the right technique for washing hands or the ways in which water could be used without wasting and for maximum benefit. People are now also interested in constructing rainwater harvesting structure in their homes to save and utilise rainwater well.
“I did not know anything about water and hygiene, did not know that we should wear slippers while going to the toilet. I had to change my and family’s behaviour before I could go out into the community”, says LathaLast year, Latha’s husband passed away due to a sudden heart attack. This work is now providing her the income (INR 3,000 per month) that she needs to sustain the rest of the family. She continues to walk around confidently every day supported fully by her children in her endeavour.
“Earlier I stayed within the four walls and did not have any view or say about anything. I used to keep quiet and my husband would take all the decisions. I did not know what was happening in the outside world. With this work, I have learnt so many things and I get to educate people on the same. Due to my interaction with people, I also learn from them,” said a soft-spoken yet confident Latha.