My name is Aaravalli, and I hail from Ponmalaipatti in Trichurapalli. I am working as a Desludging Operator, responsible for managing the transportation of faecal sludge from septic tanks, to the desludging sites. Initially, my job posed a significant challenge, as it involved the heavy lifting of equipment, managing hose pipes, and clearing blockages, which was physically demanding. The task of lifting these cumbersome tools and machines was quite difficult, and often left me in pain by the end of the day. However, with time, I’ve grown accustomed to it.

But what’s even more challenging is the discrimination and humiliation I’ve faced because of my gender. People questioned my abilities and belittled me for doing this kind of work. People say things like, “Is she going to work or somewhere else ? No one knows.” However, I remained determined and have faced every challenge with grace and confidence. It was tough, but I persevered and took full ownership of my job.

One major obstacle in my success was my lack of knowledge in driving a truck. Rather than give up, I saw it as an opportunity to learn and improve. I knew that this new skill would lead to greater success.

Throughout my journey, I faced criticism and skepticism from those who didn’t believe a woman could succeed in this male-dominated industry. But I didn’t let it bring me down.I believed in myself and my abilities and worked hard to prove my worth. I always say, “I believe in God and I just do my duty.”

I try to encourage my friends to believe in themselves and their abilities too. I always tell them, “When I can do it, you also can.”

The Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS) leads TNUSSP, working with community toilets in the city to improve sanitation. IIHS is part of the National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) Alliance, a collaborative body driving the discourse on FSSM in India.

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