When Rajasthans former sanitary workers walked the ramp in New York

July 6th, 2008 - 9:37 pm ICT by ANI  

By Pankaj Choudhary

New York, July 6 (ANI): It was a moment of inexplicable joy and pride for the 36 women, formerly engaged in sanitary works like carrying night soil in Rajathans Alwar District, as they accompanied top Indian models on ramp at a function organized here in their appreciation by the United Nations Organisation recently.

United Nations is celebrating the year 2008 as ‘Sanitation Year’. These women were invited from Rajasthan to hail their liberation from carrying night soil.
The function that was held here on Wednesday (June 2) was part of the UNs year-long celebrations.

Till four years ago, these women had taken to the traditional family practice of cleaning night soil in their localities. But having taken to other vocations under a programme run by an NGO Sulabh International, they have gained a new confidence in life.

These women demonstrated their newly acquired joy as they accompanied top models on the ramp and earned a round of applause from about a thousand representatives of around 150 countries present on the occasion here.

Displaying the outfits on ramp were Indias top models including Indrani Das Gupta, Sheetal Malhar, Aryan Vaidya , Sharad Kapoor , Mark Robinson, Tapur and Tupur Chatterjee and few others. The fashion models were wearing outfits designed by these women.

Senior officials of the UN including Chief of Cabinet of UN Secretary General Vijay Nambiar and the UN Assistant Secretary General Thomas Stelzer were present on the occasion to boost the morale of these progressive women.

“UN had invited all the ladies who were cleaning human excreta manually till 2003. It was surprising for the UN to learn that how in four years life of people could be changed. Now these women are able to earn their livelihood. They are self-employed and have gained so much confidence in them. So this year the United Nations has declared this year of 2008 as Sanitation Year to bring emphasis to achieve millennium development goals,” said Bindeshwar Pathak, Chairman, Sulabh International, New Delhi.

About 2.6 billion people on this planet have no access to safe and hygienic toilets. So targets have been fixed to provide toilets to half of the population of 2.6 billion by 2015 and all by 2025, Pathak informed.

All these 36 women were invited to New York by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs to showcase to other NGOs how determination can help to the uplift of women.

“The feeling was very nice that time when we were made to wear the tiaras. We got lot of respect here. Because we came out of India and were given so much respect, we are very happy. But we will be really happy when all the other women who are cleaning the night soil will be free from that work,” said Usha Choma, a former sanitary worker.
Meanwhile, the credit for providing these ladies a new ray of hope in life goes to an NGO named Sulabh International.

Sulabh International runs a programme Nai Disha (new direction) for the betterment of downtrodden women and to prevent them from the tasks of cleaning the night soil, and enable them to earn a viable livelihood.

These 36 women were given vocational training by Sulabh International in tailoring, designing, make up and running beauty parlours as an alternative source of livelihood.

These women were helped in giving up their work by a vocational training centre set up under Nai Disha at Alwar District of Rajasthan.

Each one of these women is now an active member of a group that motivates other women engaged in sanitary works to give up a lifestyle of drudgery and humiliation.
UN officials also released a book during the event that contained the success story of these liberated women titled ‘The Princesses of Alwar’. (ANI)

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