Kusumlata from Choti Bhil Basti, Jodhpur, is among the handful of educated young women in her community. She has grown up seeing women and girls receiving minimal encouragement to study and are primarily socialized to focus on household chores. Despite the reality of her community’s approach, Kusumlata finished her post-graduation degree with support from her parents.

Since her childhood, Kusumlata was always inclined towards social work and community service. She and her husband, also a social worker, were always ready to help anyone who needed support. This journey widened her perspective and allowed her to see the struggles and challenges faced by the people of the community. She knew that with the right approach and guidance, the community could solve their problems. So, when the opportunity came, Kusumlata was among the first people to become a part of the MISAAL Settlement Committee (MSC).

WHAT IS MISAAL?


Moving India Towards Sanitation for All (MISAAL) program has been implemented by Urban Management Centre (UMC) in four cities of India including Sambalpur in Odisha. MISAAL program fundamentally focuses on supporting cities with mapping, measurement and monitoring of sanitation service delivery, and infrastructure to achieve and sustain Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. The program is assisting local governments to address ODF sustenance challenges, which includes:

  • Last-mile gaps in WASH services, especially in slums and slum-like settlements
  • Limited community participation
  • Absence of robust service delivery performance measurement and monitoring mechanisms
  • Lack of interdepartmental coordination
  • Limited public awareness efforts towards sustainable WASH

With great enthusiasm, Kusumlata participated in all the training, awareness campaigns and orientation sessions conducted by the MSC. This gave her a platform to raise questions and understand the steps that needed to be taken in order to resolve the problems of civic infrastructure that her settlement had faced for years. With her zeal to help people and her educational background, she became the representative for her MSC.

“It is because of everything I learnt 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”, said Kusumlata

While representing her settlement to the authorities, Kusumlata knew that she could help more people and make a real change on the ground if she managed to be in charge. She saw the opportunity to achieve this goal when the Municipal elections were just around the corner. Encouraged and supported by her husband to stand for the ward councilor elections, she was elected unanimously.

LEADERSHIP & PANDEMIC

 

 


During the Pandemic, Kusumlata took it upon herself to ensure the urban poor settlements in her area were not neglected. In her new position, Kusumlata proactively engaged with the other MSCs in her ward to address their concerns. She supported them in conducting awareness sessions in various settlements on different issues including menstrual hygiene for adolescent girls. Her leadership has also supported the Urban Local Body (ULB) in conducting vaccination drives in her ward and raising awareness on vaccinations to help fight COVID-19.


National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance

The National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance is a collaborative body, convened in 2016 and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working with governments and decision-makers across the country at national, state and city levels to drive safe and sustainable urban sanitation in India.

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