She was bestowed with Nari Shakti Award in 2019 by President Kovind.
Storming a chiefly male bastion with a mallet in one hand and chisel in another, is the almost 60-year-old resident of Kanpur, Kalavati Devi. Apart from shattering glass ceilings, she has made a tremendous amount of effort in improving sanitisation and hygiene in the city by constructing over 4000 toilets. Though she was often met with ridicule and led a life marked by several ups and downs, she never stopped working towards improving the living standards of her community.
Woman with a mission
Born in the Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh, Kalavati Devi was married as soon as she entered her teenage years, to a boy from Kanpur. Though she didn't receive any formal education, she efficiently managed her home and took care of her children. However, the tides took a turn when her family started living in Raja ka Purwa- a shantytown in Kanpur.
The lack of community toilets for a slum area, where almost 700 families resided, triggered her to work towards a changed and better tomorrow. Coincidently, Shramik Bharti- a Kanpur-based NGO, decided to construct toilets in her shantytown and that is how Kalavati Devi first entered this dominion of masonry.
Despite receiving taunts from her neighbours, Kalavati Devi kept on working towards her passion of providing a safe elimination space for everyone. She had to educate the people around her regarding the importance of living in an area that was open defecation free (ODF) and this proved to be a herculean task.
A modern-day saviour of humankind
Open defecation has been the norm for women living in rural areas which has made them unwanted victims of violence. Apart from this, it also causes severe illnesses and unhygienic conditions, effectively lowering the quality of living. Hence, the efforts of Kalavati Devi rightfully earned her the tag of- 'saviour of humankind'.
Her work has been duly recognised by the government as she was bestowed with Nari Shakti Award in 2019 by President Kovind. Further, she was one of the seven women who took over the Prime Minister's Twitter handle on International Women's Day 2020. Among the flurry of inspiring tweets by her was the following quote- "So go out. If someone speaks foul of you, let them do it. If you want to achieve your goal, then do not look back."
The inspirational life story of Kalavati Devi only goes on to show that awareness, not education, is necessary for those who wish to bring about a change. It also highlights that if your passion is true, then there is no force that can stop you from achieving your goals!