To celebrate Women’s Day, the IIHS-led Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme (TNUSSP) organised an event like never before on the eve of International Women’s Day at Spaces, Besant Nagar, Chennai. Some of the notable aspects of the event were the short film screening, photo exhibition and award ceremony, and expert discussions with sanitation professionals.

Short Film Screening: Women in Sanitation (#WIS2024) is a year-round social media campaign by TNUSSP where the voices of remarkable women sanitation professionals’ voices are amplified and their stories told. Three films, part of the WIS campaign, were chosen for a special screening at the Women’s Day event.

Chinta Devi, a manual scavenger turned Deputy Mayor in Bihar; Anjali, an Area Level Federation leader in Chennai on whom 300 women depend for their livelihood; and Girija Thennarasu, a Self-Help Group leader who takes care of the operation and maintenance of a public toilet in Chennai; are some of the notable women whose stories were screened at the event.

Photo Exhibition & Award Ceremony: This International Women’s Day, TNUSSP hosted a photography contest called ‘Sutham Selvigal’ for college/university students in Chennai. Students were asked to capture photographs with the theme ‘Women Sanitation Professionals and the City’ in mind. More than 80 students participated in the contest, out of which, 11 were shortlisted and invited to the event. Their photographs were exhibited at the event location for viewing and the top three winners were announced and awarded a cash prize of INR 15,000, INR 10,000, and INR 5,000 respectively. 

Guests of the event: Marlima Muralitharan who won Tamil Nadu’s Best Transgender Award in 2022 for her exceptional work in uplifting transgender people; Sahitya Akademi award-winning Tamil writer S Ramakrishnan; and Latha Menon, an award-winning commercial and documentary filmmaker and storyteller, and educator were the jury members of the photography contest and the guests of the event. The guests had discussions with the featured WIS professionals about their lives, hopes, struggles and inspiration.

The event was attended by almost 100 people from various sectors: students, sanitation professionals, media journalists, educators, etc. The event revolved around spotlighting the much-needed often-unnoticed work of sanitation workers in the city and the need for everyone to do their part responsibly in the sanitation value chain. Some of the college students shared how this event and the photo contest have opened their eyes to appreciate the work of sanitation professionals more and be the change.