Kusumlata, a shining example from Choti Bhil Basti, Jodhpur, defied the odds in her community, where women's education was often neglected in favor of traditional household roles. Supported by her parents, she persevered, achieving a post-graduation degree, a rarity among young women in her neighborhood.
Since her early years, Kusumlata's heart beat for community service. Together with her husband, who shared her passion for social work, they reached out to those in need. Through the transformational journey revealing the formidable challenges confronting her community, Kusumlata recognized that, with the right guidance and approach, they could overcome these hurdles. Hence, when the chance came, Kusumlata eagerly joined the Moving India Towards Sanitation for All (MISAAL) Settlement Committee.
MISAAL, an initiative under the Urban Management Centre (UMC), operates in 4 Indian cities, including Sambalpur in Odisha. The program concentrates on mapping, measuring, and monitoring sanitation service delivery and infrastructure to attain and sustain Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. Kusumlata engaged wholeheartedly in the committee's training, awareness campaigns, and orientation sessions. Her educational background and unwavering commitment propelled her to represent her MISAAL Settlement Committee (MSC).
"It is because of everything I learned through the MISAAL Settlement Committee that I have been able to make an impression on the residents, and they have elected me to represent them," Kusumlata affirmed.
As she advocated for her community before the authorities, Kusumlata recognized the potential to drive meaningful change not just in sanitation, but beyond. The forthcoming Municipal elections offered her a chance to seize that opportunity. Encouraged by her husband, she stood for the Ward Councilor elections, earning a unanimous mandate.
Throughout the pandemic, Kusumlata became a beacon of hope, ensuring that services for urban poor settlements in her constituency did not go unnoticed. In her new role, she collaborated with other MSCs in her ward, addressing their concerns and conducting vital awareness sessions, including menstrual hygiene for adolescent girls. Kusumlata's leadership also galvanized the Urban Local Body (ULB) in conducting vaccination drives and spreading awareness about COVID-19 vaccinations. Her journey reflects the extraordinary impact that one individual's unwavering commitment can have on a community's well-being.