A brave crusader (Nanded, Maharashtra)

Madam - as Ms. Sulochana is popularly known, carries her behavior change communication (BCC) material such as paper clippings, reports on harmful effects of unhygienic environment on growth and development, photographs showing how people’s participation had changed the life and living conditions in different areas. She stops at public places and engages in discussion with the bystanders. The subject of discussion is sanitation in the area in general and menace of solid waste in particular.

Madam Mukhedaker has had a long and illustrious career as a teacher; hence, communication with any group is not a problem. She quickly connects with the people and opens her notebook to take down their name & contact address. “I keep a record of each of my contacts because I believe that I am building a cadre of like-minded people and when the appropriate opportunity comes I know who to approach,” Ms.Sulochana mentioned. “These are the records of my communication with different government departments”. She shows the copies of letter with acknowledgements, “there are hundreds in number but there is hardly any visible action on suggestions nor any response..,’’. She suddenly smiles, showing her certificate of participation in a three day workshop organized by Feedback Foundation, “Now, with my engagement with Feedback Foundation I feel as if I am with an army of people that I was missing for long. The hard hitting message by Mr Ajay Sinha on citizen’s responsibilities for sanitation and hygiene in the workshop re-ignited my ambition and my resolve became stronger’’.

Now Ms.Sulochana drives her scooty daily to different clusters of Nanded and spreads the message with renewed vigor. “We ensure that when Madam is expected in the morning for messaging in some area, we reach before time, but we are invariably surprised to find her at the spot before us and with a smile of welcome’’, mentions a field associate.

“Trigger, triggering are really very exciting words but over the months I have learnt its real meaning by working closely with Feedback Foundation. Being an educationist by profession, I was trained to be methodical, logical and caring, but for any change, hard hitting communication is required, which I learnt from Feedback Foundation. Now I can feel the difference between pedagogy for education and for igniting change”.

Ms. Sulochana had initiated the first compost pit in Nanded. She had a tough time convincing the residents of her area to segregate the household waste as bio-degradable and non-degradable. As is usual with her, if she resolves on something, there is no stopping. She does not preach but demonstrates to people hands-on how to mix the waste to make use best of it.

“I think this is only due to lack of awareness, that people raise eyebrows and pinch their nose at the mention of Kachra-solid waste, open-defecation etc. In my experience, once a proper understanding is achieved, the response is usually “…oh!! We too were thinking on these lines but could not articulate how to work on it….’, Ms.Sulochana becomes excited detailing her learning, “I was more academic in my approach and was somehow missing the bigger picture of sanitation and hygiene as open defecation, household waste segregation, cleaning sewerage, community monitoring and assertive actions. What I have learned during my association with Feedback Foundation are of prime importance for sustainable sanitized environment.”

On her own, she has been delivering motivational lectures to schools and collages on sanitation and hygiene. She now aspires to get associated with institutions that could channelize her experience and enthusiasm to a bigger audience.

Ms. Sulochana has a penchant for writing. “I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses, thus I could never convince myself to organize my efforts by establishing an NGO to take the message to a broader audience in a project manner; thus, I have decided I cannot change people, but I can make a choice of how I would work. Hence, I write on different issues, spreading awareness and sensitizing readers”.

Now working in close association with Feedback Foundation, she is a sanitation champion who is fiery in her speech and loves triggering new clusters every day and continuing her dedication for sanitation and hygiene by including more people in the mission. Ms.Sulochana aspires to take the sanitation and hygiene message to the next level, by publishing a quarterly and institutionalizing some of the practices.

Hence, a busy retired teacher, filled with energy and enthusiasm, can be spotted anytime and at any place advocating sanitized and hygienic Nanded.