According to a report in the medical journal Lancet, India continues to contribute the most child death in 2015 alone. Globally, diarrhoea is the fourth biggest killer of children under the age of five, while in India it is the third biggest killer after birth complications and pneumonia.
In Jorhat district in the state of Assam, the disease was taking away so many lives. People could not understand the reason behind the horror, authorities were not lending a helping hand, children were dying, and families were breaking. It was all because of open defecation and lack of hygiene.
That was when 47-year-old Bonti Saikia from the village decided to get up and fight against the deadly disease. She attended a session about health conducted in her village to know the reason behind it. Today, she is saving many live rom her village with her constant hardwork and dedication.
Education as an important tool
Bonti is an educated woman. She decided to spread awareness about the disease amongst people in her village. That was when she began teaching those who did not have toilets at home, going door-to-door, teaching them the importance of safe defecation and cleanliness.
“I taught my villagers how to wash hands with soap, how to use a toilet at home, how to keep it clean and other rules to a healthy lifestyle,” tells Bonti to a website.
She also began going to various schools in her village to educate children about safe sanitation and to adopt a healthy and hygienic lifestyle. She would organize workshops in gram panchayats and spread awareness about the causes of Diarrhoea and how to eliminate it. She would also inform them about the subsidy amount that is given by the government to build the toilet.
Made her village open defecation free
“It was not easy, not everyone was ready to listen to me. But, I didn’t lose hope. If they didn’t hear me out for the first time, I went to them again, till the time they actually acted upon the thing I was saying.”
For the families who could not afford materials to build toilets, Bonti had another idea. She started talking to the owners of shopkeepers to provide the materials and told the families to pay them the money after getting the subsidy amount from the government.
Last year, on October 2, Bonti’s village was declared open defecation free. She helped in building more than 2,000 toilets in the village.
In the #ChaloChamparan ceremony held in Bihar, Bonti was honoured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for her efforts to free Assam from open defecation.
Bonti is proud to be a part of the biggest cleanliness initiative, The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
“I want to urge each one of you to just do something about fulfilling the dream of Clean India. One simple step by all of us can together help us achieve the target,” she says.
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