Master

A mother’s concern for the long term safety of her daughters.

By N. Sudhakar/WAI

A mother of three daughters, Sangi Shyamala got a toilet constructed in her house in order to ensure safety and dignity for them, but missed out on the right toilet design. As a result, the family struggled to use it and again ended up defecating in the open. Here is how Shyamala and her husband Balraj learnt about constructing a good toilet – a mix of appropriate technology along with good design, for comfort as well as sustainable use.

Forty five year old Shyamala and her family of five live in a remote village in the eastern part of Kamareddy district of Telangana. The village is home to some of the most marginalised families, who live in houses made up of mud and hay. A majority of the villagers still defecate in the open and the village has very few sources of water from the local municipality.

Shyamala’s husband Balraj, is a construction labourer and the sole bread winner of the family. As compared to others in the village, Balraj’s family is one of the very few who live in a fully constructed brick house, which till some time ago did not have a toilet. Although, the family had access to water through a pipe connection, the quality of water was bad and so the family used it only for domestic purposes like cooking and cleaning. For drinking, they purchased water on a daily basis so as to avoid waterborne diseases.

As a mother of three young daughters, Shyamala always felt uncomfortable and scared whenever her daughters stepped out to defecate in the open. She persuaded her husband to construct a toilet for them to avoid the constant fear in terms of safety. Without giving it a second thought, Shyamala and Balraj decided to construct a toilet in the house, more than a year ago, irrespective of the increased expenses and what the community thought.

The toilet contracted keeping in view the family's needs.

However, even after constructing the toilet the family was forced to defecate in the open. Reason being the lack of a septic tank. The toilet opened into an open drain on the other side of the lane that created a nuisance due to the exposed faeces attracting flies and insects leading to chronic diseases.

As the situation got worse, the municipality conducted an inspection and advised the family to stop using the toilet with immediate effect. While the daughters had to again look for isolated spaces to defecate, Balraj who is a diabetes patient faced a lot of problem in squatting, due to the lack of sensation in his feet.

When he shared his plight with the community leaders along with WaterAid and its partner organisation, Shyamala and Balraj were informed about the government’s schemes that they are entitled to. Soon, they applied for the incentives to renovate the toilet as per appropriate waste disposal measures.

With the help of relevant information and guidance, a septic tank was soon constructed under Shyamala’s house and connected to the toilet. Keeping in view their family’s increasing requirements, she also suggested that they construct a second toilet in the house. Both, Shyamala and Balraj ensured that the waste disposal measures were followed accurately, including proper pipelines, frequent emptying of the septic tank with support from the municipality, and so on.

Shyamala with her daughters outside their house after the construction of the toilet and septic tank.

The family is now relieved with the improved sanitation facilities at their house. They clean and disinfect the toilets regularly to maintain a hygienic environment and to avoid infections. The daughters feel safe, while Shyamala and Balraj are able to use the toilet comfortably at any point of time. In their journey to have a toilet in the house, Shyamala and Balraj realised the difference between just constructing a toilet and getting the right one made with appropriate toilet technology, for not only a clean and comfortable environment but also for sustainable use.