Even as the men chose not to heed all those “Jahaan soch, wahaan Shouchalay“, the women had built up their resolve about the bathrooms they deserved- even if it meant building it with their bare hands. And as the bridge on the Adri River in Aurangabad gave way, Kusum Devi saw the bricks lying around and used the opportunity.
With heightened awareness efforts about the health hazards to communities that defecate in the open, Kusum devi had always kept these risks on the radar. But when she asked her husband to build a toilet in their house, he was absolutely apathetic. She gathered support from some other women living in their village, and together, started formulating a plan to construct the bathroom themselves.
The villagers noticed the trio – Kusum Devi, Shobha Devi and Sridevi – walking up to the shambles of the broken bridge every afternoon for the next few weeks, and bringing back bricks bundled up in their saris. Once they had gathered the material they needed, they began laying the foundation of a toilet manually- until a few volunteers from UNICEF’s technical support group noticed the activity and offered to help. These volunteers were the support group to Government of Bihar posted there to inform the village folk about the evils of open defecation.
“The volunteers showed us we were literally eating our excreta. They explained to us how defecating in the open is responsible for many diseases.” says Kusum Devi to UNICEF.
As per government data, around 77 percent of Bihar’s population is without a toilet, and defecates openly. The projects sanctioned to provide them with formal infrastructure failed to materialize.
representational Image by: www.embracingtheworld.org