Adivasi youth engage their communities to adopt healthy WASH practices


By GV News Desk

10 May 2023

Young Adivasi women and men selected as Village Institution Service Providers (VISPs) across Odisha’s 187 villages are ensuring improved water quality, promoting hygiene practices, and increasing nutrition intake in their local communities.

As part of Project Sujal, a partnership with Japan Star Corporation, Gram Vikas selected women and men from the villages who have passed Class 10, use smartphones, and are interested in contributing to community development as VISPs. These volunteers support the work of the Village Development Committees (VDCs), reaching 8300+ households.

TheĀ  VISPs also promote cross-learning among community members, focusing on women, adolescents and children. Over the last two years, 49 VISPs have organised ‘Learning by Sharing’ sessions in five districts of Odisha.

Sanpyari Beg, a VISP trained in water quality testing by Gram Vikas and a graduate who coaches students of Classes 5 and 6 after school hours, facilitated a similar session in Sundergarh district’s Madatola village. During the session, Pransila Beek, 18, who belongs to the adolescent group in her village, spoke on nutrition, “I explained the importance of colours in meals, that white signifies roti and rice, yellow for dal and other pulses, and green for leafy vegetables. All these colours should be a part of a person’s everyday meals to ensure a nutritious diet.”

Pinky Topo, the Secretary of the Madatola VDC, spoke about the safe disposal of waste and how it could bring numerous health benefits and help keep the environment clean. She informed the residents about the Central Sorting Centre at Dumerjore Gram Panchayat, and the resident employed to collect waste from every household to take it to the sorting centre. Pinky urged the residents to segregate their waste at the household level, ensuring a clean village and Panchayat.

“Results from the water testing in our village showed bacteria contamination in the tube well water. I appealed to the residents to keep garbage and water from stagnating around the tube well, as stagnant water could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, leading to severe health hazards such as malaria and dengue and contaminating groundwater,” said Annapurna sharing about her session.

Tetrabahal village in Dumerjore Panchayat received a household-level water supply for the first time in 2021. Sunil Lakra, a 28-year-old daily wage labourer in the horticulture department, became the VISP working closely with the residents, SHGs, and Child Club and Adolescent Group members. In the past two years, he has helped more than 50 residents apply for and receive their labour cards through the Panchayat.

Sunil’s constant engagement has inspired the residents to maintain dustbins at home and not throw garbage in open spaces anymore. “I have been raising awareness about water quality and reminding residents to keep their surroundings clean. I visit every household in the village, encouraging them to keep two dustbins at home and segregate the waste into bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste,” says Sunil. The village has five community dustbins placed at five locations. Every household gives segregated garbage to the two Safai Mitras who visit daily.

Asrita Tigga, 34, Secretary of the Tetrabahal VDC and President of Parvati SHG, spoke about malnutrition in the village affecting women and children’s health at the session. “I urged women and children to consume protein, vitamin and iron-rich food like pulses, leafy vegetables, eggs, meat and fish instead of just rice and boiled potatoes.”

Parmananda Saha, 32, a VISP and farmer, recently held a session in Ushra Colony in Sundergarh district. Members of Self Help Groups (SHG), VDC, youth and child clubs, and adolescent groups attended the session. Anushka Purti, a 12-year-old from Ushra Colony, shared a chart she had prepared with a sketch of a hand to explain hand washing. “I encouraged everyone at the session to wear clean clothes, cut their nails regularly, and brush twice daily,” Anushka shared about her participation.

VISPs are present in all seven Project Sujal villages working to reach at least 50% of women and 30% of children to improve sanitation and hygiene practices. Overall, Gram Vikas trains and supports 690 VISPs in nine districts, with 43% serving for over six months.

Acknowledgement: Sunil Kumar Sahu, Kiran Kujur and Chandrika Patnaik reported on the story.

Learning by Sharing sessions held in one of the villages in Sundargarh district.

Photograph by Sunil Kumar Sahu


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