The project was inaugurated by veteran actor and politician Shatrughan Sinha, former union minister Jairam Ramesh, Sharwan Kumar, Minister for Rural Development, Rural Works and Parliamentary Affairs, Bihar government and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav along with the Campaign Ambassador Vidya Balan who unveiled the mnemonic of the program.

Main dignitaries present at both the events were HH Swami Chidanand Saraswati, President and Founder, Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh and Professor Jack Sim, Founder, World Toilet Organization, Radheshyam Gomla, Sarpanch.

Speaking on the occasion, Campaign Ambassador, Vidya Balan, said, “For the past two years I have dedicated myself towards raising awareness around importance of hygiene and to stop open defecation. I am really proud to be a part of this campaign which is taking a different route of engaging with stakeholders and creating change leaders at community level to bring about this behaviour change.”

 Speaking on this occasion, Sanjay Gupta, CEO and Editor in Chief, Dainik Jagran, said, “The Jagran group as a media house has always considered sanitation as imperative as other social issues concerning the development of the nation. To create demand for sanitation and encourage safe hygiene habits is very important for the success of the campaign.”

“The joint effort communities put in improving their sanitation practice brings a bond and a sense of belonging to the members of a community. It makes them share a common pride of cleanliness. This brings about a change in social attitude. Jagran group shall be proud to support the initiative in creating the required awareness through our newspapers,” he said.

Introducing the project Anand Madhab, CEO, Jagran Pehel said, “Through the initiative, the program will reach out and work closely with 500 PRI members, 500 natural and faith based leaders, 500 ASHAs / AWWs and 2 lakh mothers directly to drive a positive behaviour towards sanitation practices.”

“Various activities like training of Panchayati Raj Institutions members using toolkit, exposure tours, Sanitation Chaupal, Capacity Building of frontline health workers through game shows and Folk shows for sensitizing mothers. The progress will be monitored at each step to track the progress and achievements of change leaders will be recognized across these 100 villages in Bihar covering Bhagalpur district and another 100 villages in Uttar Pradesh covering Varanasi, Kannauj and Etawah districts,” Madhab said.

Commenting on the launch of the project, Nitish Kapoor, Regional Director RB South Asia, said, “We are proud to partner with Pehel and the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to launch this initiative which primarily aims towards driving behaviour change across communities.”

“While we have a dedicated initiative targeting school children, we believe it is equally important to educate and encourage communities to adopt healthier hygiene and sanitation practices to create a positive impact on the society they live in. By the end of this campaign, we aim to help these 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar become Open Defecation Free,” he said.

According to National Sample Survey Office and World Health Organisation, over 600 million Indians have no access to toilets. The proportion is worse in rural India – where 68 percent of rural households don’t have their own toilets.

In order to achieve Open Defecation Free status, the project ‘Changing Behaviour: Creating Sanitation Change Leaders’ will be implemented using a three pronged strategy of environment building; capacity development and changing behaviours.

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