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Rajasthani women wield trowels, construct toilets
Sunday February 15, 2015 3:18 PM, Anil Sharma, IANS

For years, Rajasthani women have been working on construction sites as labourers. Now, they are set to break through another glass ceiling by wielding trowels and doing construction work - contributing in the process to the Clean India movement.

Thus, when Kanta Devi, a woman in her early 20s in Barmer district, decided to attend a workshop by a few male trainers at her village, she was unaware that she was going to "construct" history and not just be an appendage. This encouraging example of women's empowerment comes from the Bhimda village, situated in the Thar Desert region of the state, which had previously garnered headlines for all the wrong reasons - ranging from atrocities against women to female foeticide.

A group of tenacious women in the village have broken the social barrier and stepped outside to travel a new path. While for centuries, the village's women have been working on the construction sites as the labourers, it took long for them to reach to the next step and become masons.

Kanta Devi and 25 other women achieved this while silently completing training with experts from a multinational oil company. Now, they will construct toilets under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan - the Clean Indian campaign.

In the beginning, Kanta Devi was confused when she got to know about an unusual training programme in her village, Bhimda, situated close to the Mangala, India's biggest onshore oil field.

Cairn India, the MNC operating the field, in partnership with IL&FS Skills School, offered the two-month training programme in masonry. It is now partnering the Rajasthan government in constructing the toilets.

The programme used modern methods of teaching, including multimedia and audio-visual aids. The women were also made functionally literate as part of the programme. They can now sign their names, read simple documents and count currency. On an average, each woman now earns around Rs.500 per day.

"Other women were joining, hence I got encouraged. I am happy to do this course. Doing practicals makes our learning easier. I was confident and had no hesitation to sit and learn in front of a male trainer," Anita Devi, another participant, told IANS.

Chhagni Devi was happy her family allowed her to do this course. "This is a nice feeling being able to learn those things which men only did so far," Chhangi Devi told IANS.

Soni Devi, another participant, was happy with the 'new' kind of learning through visuals and sound. Multimedia training helped these women to learn minor detailing of the construction activities.

"People never imagined that a woman can construct buildings. They were always seen working as labourers. Now, I am willing to work for supplementing my family's income," a happy Gero Devi told IANS, adding she was getting special attention from other women in her neighborhood because of her new-found role.

(Anil Sharma can be contacted at

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