How talks in his tea shop inspired Jitender to make a change in his village

How talks in his tea shop inspired Jitender to make a change in his village

Jitender Kumar’s samosas are famous. From morning, people queue up at his little tea shop for his crunchy, crispy, golden brown samosas with spicy potato filling. It seems his samosas have cast a spell on Badanpur village in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh where he lives!

“When people come to my tea shop, over a cup of tea and samosas, they discuss local issues. Their talk usually veers onto the lack of facilities in the village. The issues they talk about go on… no proper drainage system that makes it difficult to walk on the road, lack of clean drinking water that leads to hygiene and health issues, women facing problems as there are no toilets in their homes,” says Jitender, a person with a high social awareness.

At the age of five, Jitender suffered an attack of polio that affected his leg. Being the eldest in his family with five siblings, after his father’s sudden death, the responsibility of the entire family fell on the shoulders of 25-year-old Jitender Kumar. He accepted the challenge and opened a tea shop for livelihood. Jitender had never attended school because of poverty at home, but with the income from his tea shop, he is supporting the education of his two brothers and a sister. And he hones his samosa making skill which he learned from his grandmother.

Jitender wanted to change the face of his village and make it a progressive one. He realised that for making a change, he should be part of local self-government so that he would have a say in utilising the funds received from the Central and state governments for the development of the village. With this intention, he contested the election to the Gram Panchayat and became a ward member. He was also elected as the chairperson of the Village Health Committee (Village Health Committees address the health needs of the entire village with the help of health providers and health institutions. They also play an important role in planning and monitoring of the healthcare services through community monitoring mechanism). The Leprosy Mission Trust India’s (TLMTI) WEALTH (Women Empowerment through Advocacy, Livelihood Training and Health) project supported and guided him throughout his journey in contesting the election and making plans for the development of the village.

“As a ward member and a member of the Village Health Committee, my responsibilities include constructing road drainage system, educating people on personal hygiene, and promoting good health and a clean environment,” says a spirited Jitender.

“WEALTH project’s Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme is helping the community change. There is exciting community mobilisation and perceivable behavioural change happening in the community. I’m sure, this will lead to sustainable improvements in the community. The village is on the way to becoming open-defecation free,” adds Jitender.