INDIA - women's toilet power in Maharashtra
There was a time when the young women in the village of Asgaon would judge a man by how much land he had, or whether he possessed a buffalo. Not any longer. Now they want something more practical - a toilet.
Seven years ago, the village gram sabha took two decisions for their community. No more dowry giving and no daughters to marry men who had no toilets.Ever since then, the thousand people who live in the village have stood firm - united in their demands for toilets. Sampoorna Swachta Abhiyan, a government launched a campaign there in 2003 to get villagers to build toilets instead of going into the bushes 'when nature called'. The women there seized the opportunity to do something practical for themselves. One woman in Asgaon told OPEN magazine's Shubnangi Swarup she was fed up. "Unlike males, we can only go early in the mornings to avoid being seen", she said. "And we face being bitten by a snake of attacked by the pigs". Others agreed. "When my neice's marriage was being fixed, we rejected two men because they didn't have toilets at home", said Chandraprabha Shinde.
The women soon latched on to the campaign. In Taragaon village, a local teacher read out a notice to his students urging them to demand a toilet from their families. And the girls immediately took up the idea. They decided to give their jewelry to their parents to help pay for the toilets. The village Panchayat decided to take things further. They got the school band to play in front of homes that had no toilets. And they went even further. They caught men in the bushes on candid camera after defecating in public view. That did the trick. Other men helped. "My brother who does temporary jobs in Mumbai, sent us 3,000 rupees", said Komal, another woman in the village.
There used to be a time when sanitation campaigners got nowhere whenever they tried to change villagers' habits. That was because they usually targeted the men. And men were quite happy to go into the bushes whenever they needed to. Campaigners have made far more progress recently as they have begun to view the problems through the eyes of villagers, especially the women.
Oh, and one other thing. Make sure you put a lockable door on the toilet too.
Most Recommended Comment
London and elsewhere, United Kingdom