Retrofitting the toilet, changing multiple lives

Story type
Case story

Forty-five-year-old Bharati and her family in the Thimmapuram village of Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district have had a toilet in their house for a long time now. Yet, they could not use it. The door of the toilet was broken, the toilet itself was damaged, and there were cracks in the water tank installed above. The family would therefore go outside to defecate and to relieve themselves, risking their health and facing the risk of public embarrassment. This has now changed.

Bharati and her family of nine members today have a functional toilet after an intervention by WaterAid India helped her take a loan to do retrofitting work of her broken toilet, including getting a new door and a new lid for the water tank. This has changed their lives massively.

Retrofitting the toilet

“We no longer have to worry when we have to answer nature’s call,” Bharati said with a smile. Looking back, she recalled the time when they would scout for places that were hidden from the public eye to relieve themselves. “We had to go far (to defecate). We’d cross the road and go to a place which had cotton mills nearby, which meant that there were labourers, all men, everywhere,” she said. This made things particularly challenging for the women who’d struggle to shield themselves in the process of normal bodily function. This, in addition to the fact that the place was also used by others to defecate in the open, made the area extremely dirty. “The place did not belong to us, or to one person; anyone could come and defecate there. Hence it was filthy,” she said.

Bharati particularly felt the pinch of being unable to use the toilet despite having the structure at home during the COVID-19 period. “During the COVID times, stepping out of the house became a problem. Plus, people said that the virus was in the air so we would be very scared to go out to relieve ourselves,” she said.

Three months back therefore when Bharati came to know of an intervention by WaterAid that would allow her to take a loan from the Village Organisation (VO) for retrofitting of her toilet, she immediately took it up. “I took a loan of INR 10,000 from the VO to get our toilet repaired,” she said.

Through this WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) financing initiative, the Thimmapuram SHG (self-help group) gave loans to six SHGs for retrofitting toilets that were originally constructed by government contractors using poor-quality material.

With the money she took as a loan for her toilet retrofitting work, Bharati said that the toilet was made functional, a new door was installed, and a new lid was put in place for the water tank. “After the work was completed, I and my family have been able to use the toilet. No more going out to relieve ourselves anymore!”

Bharati spent INR 8,000 from the loan amount on the retrofitting work—not a small amount by any means—but she has no regrets. “I am just thankful that our troubles are now a thing of the past. No regrets at all,” she said.