New Delhi, June 22 : About 30 women, who were long related to scavenging jobs, had an unusual cheer of pride on their faces on Saturday here when they walked the ramp with top Indian models like Carol Gracious, Jessie Randhawa and Nethra Raghuraman.
The event Mission Sanitation-Fashion Fiesta'08 is being jointly promoted by the United Nations NGO-IRENE Network and Sulabh International Social Service Organisation for the High Level Segment of ECOSOC in observance of the International Year of Sanitation' 08.
Courtesy Sulabh International that operates modern public conveniences in India trained these women and motivated them to take to beauty salons, parlours and handicrafts as alternate source of livelihood.
Sulabh International through its various rehabilitation programmes has trained hundreds of such women related to sanitation works for other livelihoods and motivated them to take up works like embroidery, pickle and noodle-making.
Speaking on the occasion, Bindeshwar Pathak, Sulabh International's founder, said: "This is for the first time that these people are being brought to the forefront. They will take part in a similar program organised by the United Nations elsewhere also. This is to spread a message to the entire world that they are not untouchables, they too have a life."
This group of 30 women is likely to participate in a series of events organized by the United Nations to mark the International Year of Sanitation. They will be required to visit New York for that.
These women will present a short film on their lives and participate in a fashion show.
On Saturday, these women were overjoyed to receive so much admiration of one and all for their newly found talents.
"We maintain a proper hygiene and are treated well by all. These people serve us tea. We are happy to be here (part of the rehabilitation program)," said Sushila Chauhan, one of the sanitation workers, who is today a part of the rehabilitation program.
There are thousands of women associated with sanitation work in India and earn their livelihood by cleaning the human waste at various public convenience centers or other venues.
Under its Millenium Development Goal target, the UN hopes to reduce by half the proportion of people lacking access to basic sanitation by 2015. By Lavanya Kumari