In the country of India there is a state called Orissa. In the rural areas of Orissa many of the roads and drains are used as open lavatories. During the rainy season, rainwater and water from the ponds, tanks and rivers mix with dried feces. Diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery spread throughout the communities. Each year a number of people die.
Fortunately this is not the end of the story. An energetic group of students, teachers, and social workers formed a community group. They then made an action plan to improve sanitation and combat disease.
The first step was to hold rallies in the villages. The students in the group travelled from village to village. In each village they held a rally and chanted things like “When people defecate on the roadside the village is polluted and spoiled! This is how diseases spread!”” We call on the people of the village to stop defecating on the roadsides!”
In the evenings, after the rallies, the social workers and villagers met to discuss sanitation. The people of one village called “Madhapada” were particularly moved by the rally of the students. With the help of the community group they made a plan to provide a low cost household latrine for many of the families, by co operatively contributing labour and money as well as by getting subsidies from the government. One poor woman with no land or money was allowed to build her latrine on community land. Villagers provided the labour.
Each latrine holder was required to have a pot of water beside the latrine at all times. Though the workload of women and children increased due to their extra burden of fetching water for the latrine, still they accepted it because they understood the benefits of using the latrines.
Once every family had a latrine, the villagers made a rule. They decided that anyone who defecated at the roadside would have to pay a fine. Part of the fine would go to a community fund. They made the rule and wrote it on a signboard and hung it at the market place. The villagers followed the rule, and within a year nobody was defecating at the roadside. The people of Madhapada were able to live a healthier life because of improved sanitation in their village.
Contributed by: B. Pattanaik, Executive Director, Forum of Social Scientists, Engineers & Teachers (FOSSET), Orissa, India.
The social workers who participated in this village project were from Janamangal Mahila Samiti, a national NGO in India. The students and teachers were from Gangadhar Bidyaniketan Bhandarikuda, a secondary school in Brahmagiri Block-Puri, District-Orissa, India.