SARGODHA-Mehreen Kanwal, from Dohri village of Sargodha district has been spearheading a cleanliness awareness campaign through the sale of hygiene products on subsidized rates among villagers.

She has been earning Rs8000 per month as Sehat Aapa(name given to these ladies who spreads awareness on health issues in local towns).

She is not alone as she has been supported by a Project Hope, an initiative founded by Reckitt Benckiser (RB) Pakistan and supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to ensure rural development and women empowerment in Pakistan.

Initially they have been executing a pilot project in two - Sargodha and Narowal districts of Punjab by Reckitt Benckiser (RB) and five other partners followed to expand in rest of the province in the next five years.

Mehreen told The Nation that in future she recommended hiring male ambassadors to reach the people as well because women needs a lot of protection and attention to carry out the whole activity.

In Chak No-2, Teshil Bhalowal, another Sehat AapaParveen has also been carrying the same project with immense passion to earn and spread the word about hygienic products which will lead to decline in diseases like diarrhea.

Patricia O'Hayer Global Head of External Communications and Government Affairs at Reckitt Benckiser's told media persons in a briefing tour to the villages in Sargodha that "Project Hope, now embarking on this journey, is the perfect model of partnership between the UK government and the private and social sectors in Pakistan.

This new company will deliver three things: empower rural women who reinforce health & hygiene practices in their communities; improve hygiene standards within their villages and reduce incidences of preventable diseases like diarrhea to create a more productive society."

She said according to the plan, 6.5 million people and 5,000 villages will be getting the hygiene products followed by decline in diseases in those areas in next five years.

She claimed diseases have declined in the targeted villages in comparison to two years back data. She said without support of the Punjab government this project could not be materialized.

Local notables, however, advocate a more proactive approach to surmount the real challenge. Talking to the media they expressed their optimism about success of the project.

"It has been tremendous effort that this project is going on in our village but we need more efforts to end the real challenge and enhance canvas of the project," one villager of Chak No-2, Tehsil Bhalowal told this scribe on condition of anonymity.

Rural households will receive quality health and hygienic products, as Project Hope scales up. Other five partners in the Project Hope are: English Biscuit Manufacturers (EBM), Shield Corporation, Shan Foods and Santex.

All product partners will provide quality health and hygienic products to the women micro-entrepreneurs, sehat aapas, to help them earn livelihood as they sell these products door-to-door within their communities, reinforcing good hygiene practices.

In Pakistan DFID is working with the Government and the private sector to strengthen institutions, deepen markets and build systems to stimulate sustainable and inclusive private sector-led economic development.

RB is a company with a history of over 150 years and is a manufacturer and marketer of branded products, relating to health, hygiene and home and operating in nearly 200 countries world over.