“An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.”
Ernst F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered
Monday, 25 May 2015 was a memorable day in Gulariya – the day the town declared itself ‘Open Defecation Free.’ This milestone was achieved through the construction of more than 11,000 toilets. A huge crowd gathered to enjoy music and dancing. Faces beamed with joy, as everybody came together to celebrate the fruits of their hard work. It was hard to believe that just seven months before only half the households here had toilets and people went to the bushes or river banks for open defecation.
I met my kind of heroes on visits to Gulariya during Practical Action’s Safa and Swastha projects there. I got to know them – their characters, their tone of voice, and their situations that gave me the opportunity to dream of La La Land. The conversations, the twists and the plots – the highs and lows made me feel like a small boy boasting and jumping around. I gathered their practices, learning and wisdom as real knowledge to share with others.
The Mask of Zorro
This hero, a down-to-earth family man, puts on a home-made mask containing the spirit of sanitation. He becomes a natural and confident leader which allows him to lead a team at a plastic recycling facility. Under the mask, he can explain the various processes of faecal sludge treatment plant components. He easily explains the sludge drying bed, what it does and how it functions.
“The sludge drying bed separates solid and liquid part using sand and gravel layers, solid part gets dried in top of sand and liquid part goes to the tank (anaerobic baffled reactor)” he says.
My hero, is full of doubts about what to do with unusable plastics. But she pushes on, when others would have quit. She still separates plastics which have no commercial value. She wrestles with her own image to stop being a hero, doing her best in the current circumstances.
The Filter-Man (Khamba Pd. Gharti)
This hero is a normal man who became an entrepreneur by chance. He became involved in the biosand filter business after learning basic construction techniques. He started his own business named “Kritag Raj Biosand Filter Industry”. This hero is a cheerful character and there is a charm hiding under his rough exterior, full of joy and hard work.
The Entrepreneur (Nilam Chaudhary)
The entrepreneur hero is full of contradictions. She operates an inclusive public toilet facility, and was assigned to operate this facility by her husband after he signed an agreement with the municipality office. Being a housewife, she was forced by circumstances to change. Although initially afraid she is now very proud of her work.
The Ring-Man (Ayodhya Pd. Godiya)
This experienced mason started working at the age of thirteen. He started his own ring construction business after learning about the sanitation business in couple of training programmes. He had had his doubts, fearing that his plans might not work. But he kept pushing on, providing rings for toilet construction and has helped his own municipality become open defecation free. My hero, got recognition from the municipality and his children feel proud of the work he has done.
So tell me about your hero … who is he/she?