A farmer by profession, Moharram Ali hails from Agya Buzurg village in District Balrampur of Uttar Pradesh. Inspired by the government of India’s flagship program, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), he has been a champion in transitioning his community to an Open Defecation Free (ODF) one. AKF (India)’s WASH and Health team tell us his story.
It all started when SBM teams came to Moharram’s village in 2014 to build toilets. But the unstructured approach and lack of a monitoring process meant that little actually changed for the villagers.
In May 2018, the AKF (India) and UNICEF started working in the area to support the SBM. Initially, gaps were identified by the programme team. This involved identifying and talking with villagers who were still unaware of the importance of the intervention and providing technical support to community mobilisers on how to effectively communicate the advantages of twin pit toilets. This work was followed up by several meetings with key village members and the sanitation committee to improve their ability to instruct the community on responsible toilet usage.
With guidance from AKF, Moharram took it upon himself to champion the cause. Inspired by the programme, he travelled door-to-door to mobilise households to begin constructing their own toilets, as well as guiding villagers on how to use them. Initially, the villagers apathy made him fairly apprehensive as to what he could actually achieve. He did not give up, however, and eventually motivated around 200 households to construct the twin-pit model toilets. While talking to a member of our team, Moharram shared:
“Along with support from key community members, together we can make a significant difference towards sustaining the positive behaviour of the community towards the usage of toilets. This positive spark will help my community to adopt healthy practices for lasting change.”
While working in the area, AKF identified Moharram Ali as a pioneering force, who not only had had a very positive impact on his community, but who could also act as a liaison with local government. With the realisation that providing the community with just toilets was not enough, Moharram adopted a more innovative approach. In the nearby village of Badhaideeh, many people in the community refused to construct toilets without an incentive from the government. Moharram organised a meeting with local officials to expedite this process and his efforts resulted in the distribution of cheques to the community for the construction of toilets.
Moharram also organised an orientation for the community on the proper usage of toilets, the prevention of diseases, and best practices to ensure the safety of children, especially girls.
“The Aga Khan Foundation and UNICEF are playing a vital role in improving community sanitation in my village.”
AKF and UNICEF have helped many champions like Moharram Ali to effectively mobilise their communities to construct toilets and change their personal hygiene behaviours. To date, 1,118 households have been reached, 1,067 latrines have been constructed, and the entire village has almost reached ODF status.
Taking confidence from his success, Moharram plans to reach out to the remaining community by ensuring their names are registered in the database and regular follow ups with SBM team are conducted. He is now confident that lasting change in transitioning his community to a completely ODF one is just around the corner.