One of the hopes we have for the next generation is that we inspire them enough to lead change around them. As part of the (SHE)2 initiative to support and promote the Swachh Bharat initiative of the Government of India, Katha’s Supergirls Series makes a lovely beginning in that direction. (SHE)2 stands for the SHE acronym twice over- Safe Water and Sanitation, Health and Hygiene, Education and Empowerment. The acronym plays very well to the theme of the books- Double Girl Power – where girl empowerment takes center stage. Like all other Katha series, this series has four books: Play a trick, Make a difference, Lead the way, Find a Solution, and finally the Wash Action Guide. Katha’s Supergirls series is an attempt towards spreading awareness among kids as well as adults towards basic health & hygiene, drinking clean water and maintaining proper sanitation measures.
The titles of the book speak for themselves- they come with a strong message take action. In typical Katha format, each book tackles a theme, which is introduced to the reader through an anthology set in various contexts and formats- juxtaposing fantasy, fiction and fact to put our burning issues into perspective for a young audience. Katha’s StoryPedagogy philosophy is both engaging and eye-opening. There are illustrations accompanying the work of fiction and photographs peppering the anecdotes.
Bringing Katha’s core philosophy that it is really never too early to introduce children to a questioning attitude to things around them, these books come with a solid action plan at the back of every book called Ta-Daa! – to depict the action cycle ‘THINK- ASK-DISCUSS- ACT.’
The contributors are all artists and writers of International repute working with a passion to build awareness around critical issues. All books are for reading age group of 5+ years and edited by the founder of Katha, Geeta Dharmarajan.
This is the story about two sisters, Tara and Nila. Tara is the elder one and she teaches a lot of things to Nila. She teaches her the use of the three golden words – Please, Sorry and Thank you. She also teaches her to play tricks on the army of germs and their king Germasura. She shows her the right way to wash the hands, the correct way to clean her teeth, bathe every day, little things to take care of to maintain personal hygiene. She also tells Nila the importance of keeping water and edible items in covered containers, not to walk bare feet since tiny germs can enter through the pores of our feet. Towards the end, they describe how they had to go outside to poop earlier but now their father has built a toilet in their house.
The book begins with a riddle about water and then a poem about the water cycle and the importance of water. The next is a story about a special earthen pot owned by Kokila. The pot teaches her simple ways to avoid water-borne diseases- how to fill it up with clean pump water instead of pond water, that the water should always be covered; about how a long-handled cup instead of hands should be used to fill up water from the pot
The story of Jayant’s big broom which is used by everyone to keep their houses clean. The broom is loved by parents and children alike.
A poem tells us the tale of Makhilal. In the land of Makhipur, the fly is considered God. It is respectfully called Makhilal. All the food is left open for Makhilal to taste as Prasad. The children were dying but the villagers do not suspect Makhilal’ s involvement The one day a stranger called Doctor Saab comes to Makhipur. She starts a revolution against the flies. Soon the children in the village turn healthy and disease-free.
Water preservation is introduced through the tale of the tormented Water-Goddess. When Nazeema and Bablu hear her cry for help, they jump inside and save her. Saved by the brave kids, the goddess tells them to take care of the water bodies which in turn are important for human beings.
123…ZAAAAAP is a story about a girl called Seetu whose family is being cold-shouldered by the entire villager because Seetu’s mother gave birth to another daughter. Seetu then meets Chikki, the hare, who takes her to its burrow, where Seetu finds a stench spreading due to a dirty toilet nearby. Seetu starts cleaning the toilet and is soon joined in by the villagers.
The next story features Tobakachi, an asura, planning to spread diarrhea in the village. Lachmi, whose little brother is also suffering from it visits Dr. Mira with all her friends to learn the preventive and curative methods to deal with diarrhea. The girls learn to make large quantities of ORS and distribute it to everyone, thus foiling Tobakchi’s plan.
While oiling Rukmani’s hair, her mother finds some lice in her hair and decides to use some tricks up her sleeve to combat the uninvited guests. Two months and a few remedies later Rukmani’s hair is lice free again. A few ‘lice attack’ techniques are given at the end of the story to take care of hair with lice(which can come in handy for urban kids too!)
The next story features the importance of washing hands properly through a sweet little girl called Saroja who finds herself suddenly sick after she forgets to wash her hands well.
The next story features Barisuk village, which witnesses a loss of animal life due to heavy floods. Little Ainu displays both empathy and courage by taking charge of the situation and helping save the kids from drowning.
Topi to Let is a poem about Mr.Chandu who explains the concept of two-pit toilets and how compost can be made. Following which is an article about Mr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the man behind Sulabh toilets.
The book starts with the favorite Katha character, Tobakachi who hatches an evil plan to become king by spreading ignorance among the Earth’s beings. This time, he chooses to instill false beliefs around menstruation- a natural phenomenon for all girls. However, our ever-resourceful Lachmi once again foils his plan by testing out all the prevalent beliefs and finding them to be baseless.
The next session is a simple know-your-facts section on germs and the ways they thrive.
What follows is a fascinating true story of a brave boy, Pradeep who employed an amusing way to make his village, Nayakheda open-defecation free.
Following that is a story of a young girl called Nagu and her initiation into menstruation through her whole helpful herd of friends.
The story of the now-famous Padman follows. His inspiring story of how he believed in a seemingly-bizarre idea even at the cost of his family and friends to bring safe menstrual practices and healthy, low-cost material to village womenfolk segues into a section where simple steps to make your own eco sanitary pads are outlines.
The next section is an activity where the reader’s imagination is prodded through a series of images, outlining the conversation and experiences of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, and how he used his talent and knowledge to shatter one of the biggest shackles of our society- casteism.
The following story is about a village called Sukhomajri which transformed itself from a dry, barren land into a flourishing green village in just five years. The story illustrates the power of people, and how a unifying intention can transform not just our spaces, but also our lives.
Lastly, to leave children with a sense of their own power, the book brings the story of the 14-year-old Payal Jangid who fights for the education of the girls in her village by working with the adults in her village.
The series also comes with a handy action guide for teachers, parents and community members to plan activities around their own surroundings. The book contains plenty of ideas to reinforce the power of small, simple acts done consistently as a community.
Neha Modi is a Chartered Accountant-turned-Storyteller. An avid reader and a dedicated mother, she was associated with Thakur Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai as a Finance Professor for 4 years. She is currently a visiting faculty at coaching institutes and teaches commercial applications to 9th & 10th standard students.
Her mantra in life is – Grow through what you go through.