When toilet spells more than hygiene; it ensures comfort, dignity and safety too
We plan a lot of things in life: a course of action at work, a day out, a meal, a trip. However, how often does one plan the time to relieve oneself? When she came to her in-laws’ house as a newlywed, Sudha Lakshmi was taken aback at the prospect of ‘timing’ this normal bodily function in accordance with the time of the day. “We had a toilet back at my parents’ home but my in-laws did not have one. I was hesitant to go out to defecate like everyone else but I had no choice,” she said. Years of discomfort later, now, when she is a mother of two adolescent girls, Sudha finally has a toilet in her house—an intervention in which WaterAid played a crucial role.
A 33-year-old homemaker in Manjarla village in Karnataka’s Raichur district, Sudha has always wanted a toilet in her house. She was used to it at her parents’ and wanted the same basic comfort at her in-laws. “I would feel extremely embarrassed to go out to relieve myself,” she said, “In the early mornings when we’d usually go, there would be no one. But if one had to go in the middle of the day, there would be people everywhere.” It was a constant battle between her body and her mind. “There was a time when I had to go in the day, but there were so many boys around that I could not defecate,” she recalled, “It was horrible. I kept telling my family that we needed a toilet.” But nothing happened.
Things were particularly difficult during menstruation—and during her pregnancies. “I was miserable,” Sudha said. Later, when mornings became a rush hour with packing lunch boxes and sending children to school apart from regular household chores, she began ‘controlling’ the need to relieve herself until late mornings. Her discomfort took a further backseat as her daughters reached adolescence. “If I had to go out for some work, I would worry if my daughters would need to go during the day when there would be men and boys close by in that area,” the mother said.
This is why when WaterAid India with the support of Water.Org intervened and started spreading awareness in Sudha’s village about the importance of having and using a toilet, it immediately resonated with her. She and her family understood that a toilet was not just for comfort, it was also to ensure health. For young girls and women, a toilet makes menstrual hygiene management possible, and it also ensures safety.
Encouraged, Sudha took a loan from the Self Help Group that she was a part of and began the construction of a toilet at her house. “It took us INR 25,000-30,000 to build the toilet and it was so worth it,” she said, “Now none of us have to wait to go and relieve ourselves. We can go whenever we want. My daughters can go whenever they want—we feel safe and we save a lot of time as well.”
The times when Sudha or her daughters would have to ask for a company to go to relieve themselves, ‘to stand guard’, is now a thing of the past. “Even my mother-in-law is grateful for the toilet now. She says that at her age, going the distance to relieve herself was becoming difficult. We are all very happy,” Sudha said, finally relieved.