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New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 12, 2019, saluted the contribution made by women in leading the Swachh Bharat people’s movement. He was addressing 16,000 women Swachhata Champions from across the country who have come to Kurukshetra, Haryana, for the Swachh Shakti 2019 convention.

Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister spoke about the symbolism in holding this convention in Kurukshetra, the birthplace of the Bhagwad Gita. He said that the presence of thousands of Women Swachhagrahis from across the country is another message from the same land and will serve to affirm the message of Swachhata in the country and the whole world.

The PM mentioned that a delegation from the Government of Nigeria was present at the event and addressing them directly, he said that he was sure that they would carry the message of cleanliness and sanitation from India back not only to their homeland but to the entire world.

The Prime Minister said that women safety and dignity was his prime inspiration behind announcing the Swachh Bharat Mission on August 15, 2014, from the ramparts of the Red Fort. He said that it was because of the efforts made by the people of India, especially women, that the sanitation coverage in rural India, which stood at merely 39% as of October 2014 even after 67 years of India’s independence, has today crossed the 98% mark in just a little over four years of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).

He said that the Mission had also benefitted women in unforeseen ways. He said that the country was seeing a greater participation of women in the workforce after the success of the Mission. He cited the example of the Rani Mistris of Jharkhand who had made their mark in the hitherto male-dominated profession of masonry and would now find even more fruitful employment such as in construction of houses under the Pradhaan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).

Speaking about the health impact of sanitation, the PM said that a recent World Health Organization report has estimated that by the end of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the progress made under it would have led to saving of 3 lakh lives.

Before addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister also visited an exhibition highlighting the colourful and attractive toilets painted in various parts of the country under the Swachh Sundar Shauchalaya campaign in January 2019. In just a matter of a month, rural Indian households painted and decorated 1.34 crore toilets. The Prime Minister also presented awards to 12 women champions from all five zones of the country – North, South, East, West and Central – for exceptional contribution to the campaign.

Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Uma Bharti spoke about the dual role played by women in SBM – both as the prime beneficiaries of the safety, health and dignity afforded by safe sanitation practices, and, even more importantly, as the leaders of this movement at the grassroots.

The Prime Minister was also presented the first copy of a book titled “Swachh Bharat: Sankalp se Siddhi” by the Governor of Haryana Satyadeo Narain Arya. The book is a compilation of the Prime Minister’s quotes on Swachhata at various events and occasions in the last four years, according to a PIB release.

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