It is said that “Time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself!”
The above quote is indeed pertinent to a bold and gutsy woman called Anita Bai Narre, who sparked of the ‘Toilet Revolution’ in rural India and was even the inspiration for Akshay Kumar’s blockbuster film – Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.
We live in a nation wherein a married girl going back to her parents is considered unacceptable in a majority of rural areas. However, a young newly wedded bride – Anita Bai Narre of Chichouli village of Betul district in Madhya Pradesh set an example by playing bold and making a courageous move to leave her marital home to protest the absence of a toilet at her husband’s house.
When Anita entered her husband Shivram’s house after marriage, she was astounded to know that her new home doesn’t have a toilet. She even complained about the same to her husband, but nothing was being done. After going out in the open for two days to defecate, a disgusted Anita played bold, left her husband’s house and returned to her mother’s place, irrespective of all the consequences that she would have to face from the society. Anita firmly told her husband that she would only return if there will be a toilet inside the house.
“When I reached my marital house, I realized that our house didn’t have a toilet. Women had to wait till the dark and walk for about a kilometer or more, away from the house to answer nature’s call. I did that for a day too,” Anita recalled in an interview.
She further added, “But I was so ashamed of going out in the open that I decided to walk out a day after my wedding. People would walk by us; I just couldn’t bear it.”
Anita’s bold move was not an easy one to take, especially given the attitude of people in rural areas. Villagers are often known to banish you from the community for something really trivial, and here Anita, a newly wedded bride, was leaving her husband’s home because there was no toilet.
However, Anita’s brave move was supported by her father since they had a toilet in their house and he wasn’t scared of society’s dissatisfaction.
Many advised Anita to go back home, but she firmly refused; she refused to defecate in the open and finally her husband was left with no choice but to build a toilet in the house. Within a matter of eight days, Anita’s husband Shivram constructed the toilet and got his wife back. He got about Rs. 2200 from the gram panchayat and contributed Rs. 2000 from his pocket.
Anita Bai Narre’s grit brought about a massive change in her village, which even the government bodies had failed to achieve with various campaigns. Out of its 157 houses, 100 now have toilets — thanks to the bold stand taken by Anita. She set an example by relieving women from the physical spite of waiting till sunset or dawn to answer nature’s call and even the humiliation of defecating in the open. She even motivated other females of her village to persuade their husbands to build toilets in the house which led to a remarkable transformation of the region.
Convincing other women to go against the norms of the society and force their husbands to build toilets in the house was the most difficult job for Anita, but with her determination, she managed to put forth the threats and disadvantages involved in open defecation. Anita's efforts further gave momentum to the sanitation campaign with more and more women contributing to the initiative.
Anita’s one daring move sparked off a sanitation revolution, and the story of her bold attitude spread like wildfire in India in 2011 and soon a Toilet based NGO Sulabh International approached her and gave a big prize money for her courageous effort.
Anita Bai Narre was handed Rs.5 lakh by Union Minister of Rural Development Mr Jairam Ramesh, on behalf of Sulabh International, a non-profit group organization, for standing up to her pride by refusing to defecate in the open and igniting a Toilet Revolution. That apart, Anita Bai Narre’s bold move has also been honored by several NGOs and women’s foundations.
Well, we only hope we get more such courageous and bold women who aren’t afraid to bring about a change. More power to Anita Bai Narre and her ilk.
Also read: Sunitha Krishnan: Defining Bold!
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Image credits: thehindu.com, Twitter