“I am a Rani Mistri”, proudly says Nirmala Devi of Simdega district, Jharkhand. With an objective to meet the shortfall of masons to construct toilets, Jharkhand has developed a plan to create a pool of Rani Mistris (female masons), as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G).
The programme contributes to and supports the requirement of masons for the “Clean India” initiative. A lot of apprehensions crowded the minds of these women masons, as traditionally men worked as masons while women would only support them as unskilled labourers. But, with the support of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the SBM team developed a plan to create a pool of women masons, district by district.
It was a member of women Self Help Group (SHG) from Simdega district who coined the term – Rani Mistri(in place of Raj Mistri – male mason). Observing the success of this initiative, the Government of Jharkhand asked other districts to also create a similar pool of Rani Mistris and organise a Rani Mistri Sammelan on International Women’s Day. On Women’s Day of 2018 (March 8), women mason conventions were held in all districts of the state, seeing the participation of more than 100,000 women including more than 20,000 Rani Mistris.
A month-long Swachhta Sankalp Abhiyan was also planned by women SHGs where 70,000 women masons and SHG members lead the sanitation drive and reached out to all villagers to practice safe sanitation practices. The outcome of that special drive was that around 200,000 additional households were given access to sanitation within a month.