Muthulakshmi, a 37-year old woman from Tiruchirappalli, has been employed as a full-time sanitation worker at a school for the past 7 years of experience. Every morning, she rises promptly at 5 am, and after completing household chores, she arrives at the school by 8:30 am. At the school, she ensures cleanliness at the micro scale: ensuring wash basins, toilets, corridors, and classrooms remain clean throughout the day. Besides maintaining a clean environment, she actively assists young children, particularly toddlers, while using the restroom. She educates young girls about essential menstrual hygiene practices, teaching them the proper disposal of napkins and the safe utilization of the incinerator. She approaches children with remarkable patience and compassion, prioritizing their well-being over other things.
She refuses to feel ‘disgust’ or ‘humiliation’ in performing her duties as a sanitation worker. She regards her work with as a crucial act of care and service to be perceived with dignity and not stigma. The COVID-19 pandemic instilled in her a greater recognition of the importance of safety. She diligently employs protective gear such as gloves, masks, and aprons while carrying out her cleaning tasks. She has a militant commitment to maintaining a hygienic and safe environment for everyone in the school.
The heartfelt appreciation she receives from the school children is a source of joy for her. Being referred to as "Amma" by the children fills her with happiness and a sense of belonging. Her motivation to work diligently stems from her desire to provide for her family, ensuring she can afford the bus fare for her children, so that she can send them to school every day. Her dreams extend beyond financial stability; she aspires to provide a quality education and a better future for her children and offer support to her aging parents.
Through her empathetic nature and refusal to give into societal stigma, Muthulakshmi plays a pivotal role in educating tomorrow’s citizens on maintaining safe and hygienic practices, making her a true Champion!
Watch Tracing the Tracks to hear directly from the champion: https://youtu.be/B30mMDyfQuU?si=f0lD9jfeCtwt12aw