Open defecation is more than just a hygiene issue. It has huge social, economic and health implications.
Let's show the same urgency to this cause as we do when we desperately need to use a toilet. Let's choose to make a difference.
Maheshwari, 25, from Raichur, Karnataka, experienced difficulties defecating in the open during her pregnancy.
Maheshwari, 25, from Raichur, Karnataka, experienced diffculties defecating in the open during her pregnancy. She said: “We can neither afford a toilet, nor do we have the space to build it. When I got pregnant, it was hard to walk to the field to defecate as the path was not safe. My mother-in-law used to accompany me because I needed help sitting down and getting up.
”In Raichur district, about 45% of deliveries take place at public healthcare facilities within rural areas, where women and babies are often at risk of infection due to unsafe environments. There were inadequate facilities at the health centre where Maheshwari delivered her baby, who was born underweight.
Meet Tilottama, Who Pulled Off A Real Life ‘Toilet – Ek Prem Katha’ In Odisha
Tilottama, a 36 year old woman from Deogarh, Odisha is responsible for making her village open defecation-free. But this wasn’t an easy task, when Tilottama Dalabehara, a young bride of 26 came to the village of Mandasila after her marriage. She noticed that not one house in the village had a toilet. Everyone went out to the open fields and ponds to attend to the call of nature. Health and the security of young girls and women was at stake.
With the support of women from the village and Tilottama’s dedicated campaign: 20 households constructed their own toilets under the Nirmal Bharat Scheme (now the Swachh Bharat Mission). But this was just half the battle won, a change of mind-set was required.
With the help of volunteers from JEETA, a partner of WaterAid India training sessions and meetings were organized, to talk about sanitation and hygiene. Tilottama then went on to collaborate with 129 women from 10 self-help groups (SHGs) in the village. As a result of her sustained effort, 116 of the total 120 houses in the village soon had their own toilets. Tilottama, a class 10 dropout, has now been given the responsibility to be the community resource person for all the SHGs in the village and continues to spearhead this campaign.
THE FEMALE WARRIORS OF ODISHA
As the country debates the plot and portrayal of characters in the latest movie ‘Toilet-Ek Prem Katha’ we can’t ignore the real life heroes of Deogarh district, Odisha who made their villages open defecation-free.
With the support of WaterAid India and its partner organisation JEETA, these women came up with innovative practices to encourage the building of toilets in their respective villages. Minati, from Nuagaon village became an eminent part of the Swachhata Committee and campaigned towards better sanitation practices. This campaign struck a chord, especially with the women who were clearly embarrassed to go out to attend the call of the nature. The villagers constructed toilets on their own using local masons trained by WaterAid to construct eco-friendly toilets.
Gauri is another real life hero from Bahadaposi, a village situated near the National Highway. Realising the ills of open defecation practices, she also formed a Swachhata Committee and conducted door-to-door campaigns to explain the adverse effects of this practice. Now completed, all the toilets in the village also generate organic fertilisers over a period of time. But that’s not where it ends, after equipping all households in the village with toilets, Gauri and her team now plan to construct toilets from their own funds, exclusively for the truck drivers who halt at the National Highway along their village.
From superstition to clean toilets, this village has come a long way.
Indira Colony in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh is not very different from the other villages that have become open defecation-free. But what makes this poor tribal community different are the innumerable obstacles they have had to face, to finally reach where they are today.
WaterAid in partnership with Mahatma Gandhi Sewa Ashram started campaigns to focus on sanitation and hygiene and formed self-help groups within the community. The village has 26 families and for a long time, the villagers did not even believe in the concept of hygiene, or were even ready to accept the ill effects of open defecation and dirty water. This ignorance was exploited by local healers who blamed diarrhoea on bad spirits and asked for alcohol, money and even animal sacrifice to heal people of diarrhoea. In the past, many people have even lost their lives to this disease. Kalawati, a mother of three from the same village remembers the time before the toilets were constructed when all the women had to cross the road to defecate, leaving them with no sense of privacy. She also mentioned that her family alone, would spend 200 rupees on a monthly basis on medicines. Now, the village hardly has any incidence of diarrhoea.
The village is now free from open defecation as each family has their own latrine. Most of the latrines and some of the houses also have hygiene related messages written on the walls to encourage the villagers to keep their toilets and their surroundings clean.