Hailing from Kandamahal in Odisha, Banita, a tribal woman in her 40s, migrated to Bhubaneshwar over two decades ago and has since resided in Adivasi Gaon. With a strong belief in the transformative power of education, Banita strived to pursue her studies up to the 10th standard. Her dedication extended to tutoring tribal children in primary school during her free time. Beyond teaching, driven by a passion for social change, Banita actively engaged in community development by joining a women’s self-help group (SHG) and a Mahila Arogya Samiti. Her commitment led her to assume a leadership role as the Secretary of her SHG.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Banita was quick to recognize the importance of safe access to water and sanitation services. She was convinced that Water and Sanitation lie at the very core of our problems and must be addressed to achieve a better quality of life. This realization led her to join the ‘Community Management Committee’ facilitated by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR).
A CMC is a community-based forum of women formed and facilitated by CFAR and CBOs, and is a critical vehicle for community mobilisation. It is responsible for creating community awareness, raising WASH-related issues, supervising and monitoring the implementation of sanitation infrastructure and services, and supervising O&M of CTCs.
In order to raise community awareness towards sanitation and raise community demand for sanitation services, Banita enthusiastically pursued a comprehensive training program with CFAR. This helped her develop a firm grasp over liquid waste management, especially mechanized desludging services. To register online demand for desludging services she also learnt to operate apps and other online tools. Desludging is the process of removing scum and sludge layers from a septic tank. While it is essential to regularly empty septic tanks to ensure proper sanitation and hygiene, due to lack of proper awareness there isn’t enough demand for desludging.
An enigmatic force, Banita reached out to over 1,000 households and single-handedly scaled the demand for desludging services. Especially passionate about connecting tribal households with water and sanitation services, she utilized QR codes to link over 150 tribal households to desludging services. She actively promotes the Janhit Vaani mobile radio, facilitated by CFAR, to ensure that communities can record their grievances on mobile devices. These recordings are then uploaded to the grievance redress portal of Bhubaneshwar Municipal Corporation, enabling efficient resolution of issues.
Banita's efforts have resulted in helping approximately 300 households regularize waste collection and access water supply twice a day, effectively meeting their daily needs. Her dedication and commitment to improving the living conditions of her community are commendable, and she continues to be an influential force in driving positive change.