Dorothiya Kerketta, a 72-year-old retired teacher and former mukhiya of Basen panchayat, has become a household name in Simdega district, which is 150 km from Ranchi.
She started her fight against open defecation long before the Swachcha Bharat Mission was launched and is now helping the district administration spread the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship project.
The former mukhiya started her fight against open defecation nearly 15 years ago, when she was a school teacher at her village Karangagudi in Basen panchayat of Kersai block of the Simdega district. “I felt ashamed when I saw the women of my village defecate in open. I tried to talk to the villagers about the privacy and dignity of women and the health risks associated with open defecation, but not many were ready to listen. I faced a lot of opposition for talking about something considered to be a taboo,” she recalled.
In spite of the discouragement and insults she faced, Kerketta continued her work with the help of a few fellow female villagers, who shared her concern. Being a reputed government school teacher, she was popular in the area, and elected as the mukhiya in 2010.
It was during this five-year stint that Kerketta got an opportunity to fulfil her dream. “In 2014, the Swachcha Bharat Mission was launched and this empowered me to fight for the dignity of women and make the village ODF.”
In a village like Karangagudi, finance, material management, water availability and finding masons to construct quality toilets became a challenge for her. The Simdega district water and sanitation division funded the village water and sanitation committee of Karangagudi to build almost 300 toilets, but the flow of funds was irregular.