Women lead the path to change
Twenty-eight-year-old Mahadevi is a big believer in collective work; work that involves everyone and everyone’s interests. More so if this is a collective of women. This, she said, is the only way to actually achieve anything. Leader of the village SHG in Y Mallapur village in Karnataka’s Raichur district, Mahadevi’s belief has paved the way for every household in her village to have a functional toilet and stop open defecation, thereby ensuring the community’s good health.
“If a group of women works as a collective it is easier and more efficient to save money and help those in need,” Mahadevi said. This is why when WaterAid’s intervention in association with Water.Org began in their village, on making people aware of the importance of using a toilet—to ensure health and, additionally, menstrual hygiene management for women—the Self Help Group women realised the importance of this message and decided to support it.
“All the women in the Self Help Group decided to help in order to get a toilet for every household in the village,” she said, “Everyone had a house but not a toilet they could use. We would go out to relieve ourselves. This had to change.”
The SHG, therefore, began encouraging the taking of loans to restore toilets or build one in order to stop open defecation. Having a toilet, the women said, would allow one to go to relieve oneself whenever they wanted, in the privacy of four walls, without attracting diseases. It would particularly be helpful for women during menstruation and/or pregnancy and for the aged. It would ensure dignity.
“Slowly every household in our village started having a functional toilet. Things have really changed at last,” Mahadevi said happily.