The Ministers of Hygiene

Bhabani, Koyel, and Sumitra may range in height and age, but they share a common purpose: to participate in the Child Cabinet at Chemaguri Natun Free Primary school on an island in Sagar, India. The three girls are leaders in this student government-like group to help promote good hygiene habits among their fellow students and ensure that the water and sanitation systems at their school are clean and maintained.

The three girls were selected by their teachers to join this student government-like group to help promote good hygiene habits among their fellow students and ensure that the water and sanitation systems at their school are clean and maintained. Each girl is designated with a specific title – Prime Minister, Education Minister and Food Minister – that parallels India’s own political system.

Each girls’ unique role has a specific function. The Prime Minister walks through the school each day to make sure all other Ministers have taken care of their jobs as well as confirming that the student body is content. The Food Minister monitors handwashing before eating, and the Education Minister makes sure everyone understands why handwashing and cleanliness are important.

The three girls are proud of the roles they take in supporting the 249-student body at their primary school. Since the inception of Child Cabinets, drop-out rates at the school have fallen to zero, keeping kids in school and learning.

The three girls are not the only ones playing a role in the sustainability of the school water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Their teacher, Monalisa, has been at the school since 2010 and participated in the toilet block, safe drinking water and hand washing station construction. Her impact goes beyond this role, however. The girls say they want to grow up to be teachers and, as they each say it, they look up at Monalisa and grin. She proudly grins right back.

Monalisa was working at the school when Water For People and its partner Naihati Prolife began working with Chemaguri Natun Free Primary as part of their WASH related interventions in the region. In 2014, construction and capacity building began at the school. Implementation activities improved water and sanitation services and training focused on ensuring that the facilities would be maintained and would continue working for generations. Monalisa reflects on the first day the toilet block opened:

“Students continued to visit the block repeatedly throughout the day because they were so excited about their new toilets.”

Recently, the school won an award from local government as the Cleanest School in the Gram Panchayat (a governed section of area within the State of West Bengal in India). No doubt the zero drop-out rate is evidence the Cleanest School award was deserved.

The success of Chemaguri Natun Free Primary school is one example of the impact Water For People and our partners are making today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. Donate now to support this work.

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