On Rural Sanitation

S. Ganesh, Alumni Fellow, SOCHARA 

I have visited and started rural sanitation activities in Issakkarasamandam in Thanjavur block, Tamil Nadu. Following the community worker of my organization organising the village members, I visited the village and gave an introduction about sanitation and explained about the purpose of my visit. I explained about the importance of sanitation and personal hygiene, and encouraged the community to build a toilet for their personal use.

In the meeting, one woman spoke about the situation in the village “Sir, more than half of the village people have constructed toilets and it is very useful during emergency times. It is protecting us from the diseases as well as the stigma associated with open defecation mainly for adolescent girls. Before toilets were constructed, for the two-kilometre journey from village to main road, we had to close our nose and mouth because of the stench from human excreta on either side of the road. We used to hesitate to travel but now the problem has been solved to a great extent. This is because of the toilets. Even now, however, we still are facing the problem because of some old traditional women and most of the men’’. Therefore, we decided to take up completing toilet construction in rest of the village and also to work towards motivating the community to utilise the facilities.

Meanwhile another woman stood up and told me “you wasted my time, I have toilet in my home then why should I attend this meeting unnecessarily. I would have watched serials in television instead.” Rest of all women laughed and mentioned that she never used the toilet and neither does the rest of her family. From this, we have learnt that just construction of toilets is a necessary but not sufficient condition and there is a need to make the community live a healthy life beyond that and motivate them for better utilization of the toilets.