September 15, 2022

A Two Women Army

NAME: Triveni Verma & Radha Vaishnav

LOCATION: Bharseli Village, Chattisgarh

OCCUPATION: Sakhi (Community health volunteer)


When 2 auditors from the Government Health & Sanitation Department visited Bharseli in 2020, they made a bee line for the ‘kuccha’ houses - avoiding the ‘pukka’ ones which were sure to have toilets. But they were shocked to find toilets in the kuccha houses too – and that they too were being used. In fact, 100% of the houses in Bharseli have toilets and WASH facilities. But just 10 years ago, it was a very different scenario. That is, until Triveni Verma & Radha Vaishnav were appointed as Sakhis for the village of 225 households, and singlehandedly turned things around – receiving the ‘Swachta Puraskar Award’ from the Health Minister and a cash price of Rs. 50,000, as a result.


• SANITATION – With open defecation an issue, the women coordinated night meetings to highlight the health and safety impacts and catalyse the building of toilets. Facing communal resistance – ‘Why do we need toilets?’ – the women drew charts and diagrams to explain the hygiene issue. Soon everybody was on board and 225 toilets were built over the next 2 years.


• WATER – A lack of water was a key barrier to sanitation, so the women advocated to the Panchayat – acting as community leaders to the village that lacked a sarpanch. Soon a site was identified to extract water, a solar pump was attached to the local pond and a drinking water distribution system was laid. Water began to reach every doorstep.


• COMMUNITY HEALTH – Triveni & Radha work day and night to advocate for preventive health, address the needs in maternal and child health, and tackle menstrual hygiene in the community. They have coordinated health camps, trudged door to door and even saved lives.


• COVID-19 – When every villager was holed up at home during the first COVID-19 lockdown, Triveni & Radha masked up and stepped out – risking their own lives to generate awareness and educate people about the virus. Today, the entire village is also vaccinated.


• DRAINAGE – A lack of proper drainage systems created a sanitation nightmare in Bharseli during monsoons, when waterborne diseases would spread like wildfire. The Sakhi’s mobilised into action and, working with ACF and the community, proper drains were installed to address the issue.


ROADS – With no proper roads, travel to and from Bharseli was a challenge and mud during monsoons made it almost impossible. Taking up the problem, the ladies have been instrumental in transforming the roads and transportation in the community.

The transformation of Bharseli stands as the perfect example of what 2 empowered women can achieve, with just a little bit of support and guidance. These women have been true change makers for the community.


September 15, 2022

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