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Jharkhand's 50,000 woman masons complete toilet construction work

Success stories these rani mistris have also reached Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he has encouraged them by talking to some of them through video conferencing

women labourers

women labourers

IANS Ranchi

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Men have generally dominated when it comes to masonry work in the construction sector. However, Sunita Devi of Udaipura village in Jharkhand's Latehar district has stunned everyone with the speed of her work.
Famously known as 'rani mistry', Sunita Devi was also honoured with the Nari Shakti Puraskar, the highest award given to working women by the government, by the President in 2019.
Besides Sunita Devi, there are about 50,000 other 'rani mistris' in Jharkhand who have not only established themselves in the masonry profession, but have also amazed everyone with their efficiency.
Success stories these rani mistris have also reached Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he has encouraged them by talking to some of them through video conferencing.
Sunita Devi recalls that four years ago, her self-help group working in Udaipura was assigned the task of constructing 100 toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission, but due to the non-availability of masons or their refusal to do this small work, they themselves picked up the tools and started the masonry work.
She was given a primary training by the district administration and later, she along with 20-25 other women completed toilet construction work.
The World Bank has recently published a report on these rani mistris. The report mentions the name of Urmila Devi, a woman from Hazaribagh, who has built more than 1,000 toilets so far.
Urmila Devi has gone to Champaran in Bihar to work as a mason for the construction of toilets. Poonam Devi, who is working with her, has also worked as a mason in the construction of 900 toilets in the last one year.
Nishat Jahan, another rani mistry from Hazaribagh, says that women are in no way inferior to men. What men can do, women can also do the same, and sometimes they do it better than men. Women have been working in the construction sector for a long time as labourers. Now that they have got an opportunity to work as rani mistry, they are showing their skills and abilities there too.
Usha, who works with Nishat Jahan, says that the job of a mason is not much different from a usual construction labourer, and with a little training any woman can do this job. Compared to labourers, masons spend less time in the work but earn more.
Traditionally, women have been working as helpers in construction activities. They are seen carrying bricks, preparing mortar, and doing other works under the guidance of 'raj mistris' or male masons. But, women in Jharkhand have broken this male supremacy.
According to the World Bank report, for the first time, these women joined the work of masons when the construction of toilets started in large numbers in villages under the Swachh Bharat Mission as most of the (male) masons had migrated to the big cities.
In Jharkhand, more than 50,000 skilled women masons have contributed in the campaign to make the state free from open defecation.
Notably, Jharkhand is one of the states that received technical assistance from the World Bank for planning and implementing the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. As part of this technical assistance, the World Bank conducted programmes to train masons to build toilets, and women workers participated in many of those programmes.
However, initially the people of the village, especially the women themselves, were reluctant to take up this work. The families of many women masons stood against them. But after struggling initially, they achieved their destination.
These women have broken another taboo. Even while working as laborers earlier, these women could not even think of going out of their village or going out to work. These women either did their household chores or worked as laborers in the fields. But now the scenario has changed.
Nishat Jahan belongs to the Muslim community and it was a big challenge for her to come out of the purdah. But she got the training in Ranchi along with other women at a week-long programme of the World Bank. She learned the technical know-how of making toilets.
Apart from this, she also learned the techniques of making soak pit and twin pit. After a week, these women were given practical training to work under a senior mason. Now, after completing the training, these women earn double wages as compared to what they used to get in the past.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Apr 23 2023 | 12:25 PM IST

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