A toilet can restore dignity: Lakshmi Devi’s story

Story type
Case story

A year since she has been using the toilet in her house with ease, 60-year-old Lakshmi Devi of Karnataka’s Jalmbaldinni village finds it hard to imagine how did she ever manage to live without one before. “I had a toilet but it was not in good condition and it was Indian style (squat style) which was very painful to use with my knee problem,” she said. Built through a government scheme, the older toilet, therefore, remained clogged and unused while Lakshmi Devi and her family of five practiced open defecation in the open spaces and fields at a distance.

Then one day, the 60-year-old heard about an organisation that was encouraging people to take loans from the village Self Help Groups to restore their toilets. “The organisation (WaterAid) told us why toilets were important. Open defecation, it said, exposes us to unsanitary surroundings and we get with ourselves disease-causing germs. This is why we fall ill so often,” Lakshmi said, “It made sense. Plus, we had to face so many problems walking the distance to relieve ourselves. I would see snakes and scorpions while defecating. It was scary, and the embarrassment at having to accidentally face people while doing so…it’s unmentionable.”


Lakshmi would also feel embarrassed each time guests came over to their house. Since the toilet was not in use, they had to go out as well.


Determined to change the story, Lakshmi therefore, decided to take a loan of INR 5,000 from the Self Help Group to restore the toilet. “I decided to get a western pot in the toilet and do the retrofitting so that I and the others could use it in peace,” she said, “Now no more knee pain while relieving myself!”

Lakshmi has since started repaying her loan in installments. “I am repaying in convenience and using the toilet inconvenience,” she chirped, “I am no longer embarrassed when guests come over. It has been a relief."