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22 Aug 2017

How Bihar's Jeevika Didis are building toilets in rural areas

The Bihar Government's Jeevika program

Open defecation has long been India's primary health and sanitation issue; most Indian states are struggling to become open defecation-free (ODF).

However, Bihar isn't among such states, thanks to "Jeevika Didis" who are helping the state go ODF by creating awareness about sanitation, health, and hygiene in rural areas.

Know more about them who built over 100,000 toilets, urging others to follow them!

In context

The Bihar Government's Jeevika program

No Open Defecation

Ensuring that no one defecates in open

Poonam and Nageena, from Bihar's Kalanaur and Dharnai villages respectively, both lead self-help groups (SHGs) set up under Bihar's Jeevika program in their villages.

The Jeevika Didis have been motivating rural women to build toilets and fight for their self-dignity and hygiene.

In last two years, over 100,000 toilets across hundreds of villages in 21 districts were constructed, thanks to their door-to-door campaigns.

Jeevika CEO-cum-State Mission Director Balamurugan Devaraj's statement

Balamurugan Devaraj said: "Jeevika didis have been playing an important role in creating awareness about the need for toilets and in motivating women to construct toilets. Their role in social mobilization and behavioral change would help us achieve a ODF Bihar."

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The two major challenges faced by Didis

Jeevika Didis say it's challenging to convince men to build toilets who argue one shouldn't defecate inside home.

Some men even damaged the toilets constructed by them.

Another issue that stops people from building toilets is lack of money.

So, they arranged loans through SHGs; some places have access to rural sanitary mart that provides good-quality construction material.

Tough measures to bring about a change

Jeevika Didis helped people understand the disadvantages of open defecation by conducting meetings at night. They took strict measures to bring about change in them. Under their 'Lota Jalao' plan, violators (those defecating in the open) were identified; their water containers were snatched and burnt.

Toilets built in Kalanaur and Dharnai gram panchayats

Gram Panchayats

Toilets built in Kalanaur and Dharnai gram panchayats

About 1,000 SHGs with over 14,000 Jeevika Didis currently operate in 22 panchayats in Jehanabad's Makhdumpur block, which was once a Maoist stronghold.

Two panchayats, Kalanaur and Dharnai, have been declared ODF by the Bihar Government.

Two years ago, there were only 25 toilets in Kalanaur; it now has over 1,750 toilets.

In Dharnai, more than 1,230 toilets were built over two years.

Successful Strategy

Jeevika's Kalanaur-Dharnai strategy to be implemented across entire Bihar

Since 2006, 580,000 SHGs have been formed under Jeevika program, and Bihar's government plans to increase the number to one million by 2019.

About 4,000 villages, 717 panchayats, and 18 blocks have been so far declared ODF.

Recently, Mar'19 has been set as the deadline to make Bihar ODF; the state government hopes Jeevika Didis would help them in achieving the same.

Jeevika: Bihar's rural livelihood program

Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP), commonly known as "Jeevika", is a project implemented by the Bihar Government. Launched in 2006, with the World Bank's assistance, Jeevika aims to improve the lives of rural people and enhance their socio-economic empowerment, focusing on women.

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