What could a 15-year-old want so much that she refused to eat food in protest? If your guess is, a piece of expensive clothing or accessory—like many other teenagers usually fancy—you couldn’t be more wrong. Lavanya, a hardworking ninth grader in school, staged a 48-hour hunger protest to demand a toilet in her home!
Just like everyone else in the village, the teenager too used to rush to the open fields to answer nature’s call. A perfectly normal, biological process was a source of everyday embarrassment as she would try to defecate without being seen by anyone, or be constantly scared of being bitten by snakes.
An awareness campaign on the Swachh Bharat Mission conducted in Sira, however, changed her perception. As she listened to her teachers asserting the importance of sanitation and hygiene and used the toilet in her school, Lavanya realized the importance of having one at home too.
However, her request was not met with an immediate approval by her family. Lavanya’s father said that they did not have enough money to construct a latrine even though the government was providing money to build toilets. But everything changed upon Lavanya’s insistence. With help from the Gram Panchayat, a toilet was finally constructed outside her home.
“I was upset with my parents and did not eat for 2 days because they refused to construct a toilet,” she later said with a smile.
“Our daughter has taught us a valuable lesson and I am proud to be her mother,” confessed Bagyamma, her mother. Her insistence caused a mini revolution in her village, in the Sira Taluk of Karnataka, resulting in not just a toilet being built at her home, but also in inspiring others in the community to get one.
“We built toilets immediately after Lavanya’s parents constructed theirs,” said Sujatha, her classmate.
Lavanya, who was already hailed as the superstar of her taluk (administrative division) for being a hardworking and sincere student, is now even more popular for heralding change in every sense of the word. As her success story began to be narrated everywhere in Tumakuru, the CEO of the district, B. R. Mamatha said, “Young girls like Lavanya can influence other villagers. She will be our brand ambassador to make Tumakuru ODF.”
The young girl now dreams of becoming a teacher one day and take forward her spirit to bring change in scores of other lives. With our future in the hands of the likes of Lavanya, we can be assured of growth and positive change.
Image Courtesy: Unicef India
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