In March 2020, when the covid-19 hit Madhya Pradesh, a class 10 student Riya Soni from a remote tribal district Jhabua developed a handwashing station out of waste plastic bottles, a rope, and a stick, the device was an instant hit not only in her school but also in nearby villages. Soon, another student of the school Sheela Damor implemented the initiative in her village Gopalpura.
The girls of Govt School Naugawan installed these handwashing stations in schools, households, and public places to keep locals safe from covid19. They also propagated the usage of masks for safety.
Riya Soni is now class 11 and part of a group of 150, ‘YouthforChildren’, an initiative for promoting child rights in Dhar and Jhabua by NGO ‘Vasudha’ and Unicef.
Gayatri Parihar, runs the NGO ‘Vasudha’ under an initiative by Unicef, had formed a group called ‘Mandal’ in 2016. Named after a local tribal music instrument, the group with the help of dhols, nukkad nataks, and photography, these kids work for child rights and also for addressing local issues. “We started off as a kids’ group but as kids grew up and continued to be associated with the project, we named it ‘YouthsforChildren’", Gayatri said. The first group was formed in Jhaba in 2016. Now, a similar group of kids and youths also works in the nearby Dhar district.
We hold meetings and discuss local issues such as water scarcity and find solutions, said Riya Soni who claimed that they offer applications to gram panchayat and if find no solution even approach public representatives like MLAs. “Last year, a borewell was offering filthy water so we had handed an application to the MLA who got it fixed," said Riya.
They work for covid-19 safety, period awareness, and help youths battle mental tension amid lockdown. She claims that locals used to fear the covid19 vaccine but after persistent counselling, they are now going for jabs.
Sheela Damor, another group member of ‘Mandal’ said they also work for discouraging child marriages and underline the importance of masks and vaccination. We work for swachhta, toilet construction and education in our area, she said.
Rumours kept locals away from vaccination drives but after proper awareness, large numbers are people are now going for vaccine jabs, said Sheela.
Amid covid-19, the volunteers roam around preaching about safety protocol, promoting vaccination, and check oxygen levels and body temperatures of the locals. During health camps, these youths speak to locals by visiting their households with health staffers and persuade them for getting vaccine jabs.
The group also prepares educational videos and urges kids to remain indoors and engage in activities like drawing and painting to kill time to keep them safe from covid19 virus.
The group has earned sizable fame for their social endeavors and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and ace cricketer Sachin Tendulkar mentioned about their work on social media in the past.