Sushila Khurkute, who hails from a small hamlet near Mumbai, has become the new face of women empowerment and the government's Open Defecation-Free (ODF) project in Maharashtra.
The 30-year-old from Nandgaon village in Palghar district didn't have access to a toilet in her village. Belonging to a tribal community, the mother of two would always go to nearby farms and other open areas to relieve herself, even when she was a little girl and even during her first two pregnancies.
In mid-February, however, when she heard of the government's Swacch Bharat programme, she decided to take matter into her own hands and build herself a toilet, according to the Hindustan Times.
Last month, when she was just over seven months pregnant, Khurkute dug continuously for three days, in order to make place for two toilets. Luckily, a group of UNICEF representatives happened to see what she was doing and decided to contact the authorities to lend her a helping hand.
The local gram panchayat provided Khurkute with basic tools and gave her building materials such as cement and bricks, so that the toilets could be built.
Now, Khurkute also goes door-to-door to educate people about the importance of toilets and proper sanitary hygiene for community health.
Khurkute is now regarded with awe and respect in her small village, and will be felicitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of International Women's Day on 8 March.
According to a report in Mumbai Mirror, Khurkute has already left for the event, which is to be held in Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
Khurkute's husband works under the state's employment guarantee scheme in nearby districts.
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