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“Due to my work hours and schedule, my life was limited to just the factory and then home. I did not even know who my neighbour was, I barely interacted with anybody. Now, my work entails constantly dealing with people, which has helped me improve my inter-personal skills greatly and I have learnt how to interact with the community”, said the eager and energetic Bylahanumakka (or Byla).

Byla (35 years) worked as a daily wage labourer since 2009 in a factory (Paragon) situated 6-7 km away from her village Papabhovipalya in Nelamangala tehsil where she lives with her husband, daughter and son. She was getting paid INR 300 per day for working from 6 am to 2.30 pm daily. Due to the factory work timing, she was unable to look after her household work well. Being President of her Self Help Group which was barely functional, she was approached by Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), WaterAid India’s partner in the region, for volunteers for their baseline survey. She found an opportunity in this to earn some more money and readily took up the offer. Post the survey, when the factory asked her to leave as she had missed work for almost a month, she was offered the role of a WASH promoter in three villages (Deganahalli, Ananthapur, Papabhovipalya) of SVYM’s project area. She was trained as a WASH promoter in August 2019 along with 20 other women. In December 2019, she was chosen as one of the 10 members to continue with this role.

Byla says, “Initially, I was unaware that there are diseases related to water and that they could spread due to water logging and lack of cleanliness. At the village level, none of the committees functioned properly including my SHG.”

As a village WASH promoter, Byla is required to spread awareness in the community on hygiene, sanitation, water use and its conservation through individual household meetings. They also arrange sessions and workshops on WASH in the village aangandwadi and schools, with Self Help Groups and Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committees. They ensure that all group/committee meetings happen on time and that all people attend those meetings regularly.

“When I first started, people would ask me why I was doing this work, if I am getting some money or profit out of this. I would visit 10 households in every village daily but only a few people would listen to me. Slowly they started responding and now they give me half an hour every time I visit them. They have also started practising what I tell them to do”, says Byla.

She adds that with SVYM’s support, the village committees have started functioning and meeting regularly. The Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee and SHGs were provided training through various workshops and taken out on exposure visits from where they learnt a lot. The people of the villages, where she works as a WASH Promoter, are now promoting solid waste management for themselves as well as the community. They have even approached their Gram Panchayat for providing a truck for transportation of waste. At the community level, people are building toilets, and where there are no toilets, people share as they have stopped going outside.

Byla earns INR 3000 per month for her work as a WASH Promoter which is less than what she earned as a daily wage labourer. But now she can maintain a good work-life balance as she can spend more time at home as well. Moreover, she gets to meet people which continue to strengthen her people’s skills as well.

“Once I did not know how to talk to others. Now people give me a lot of respect; they even tell my parents that their daughter is doing very good work in their villages. And that is what matters more to me than money”, she says emphatically.