In India, out of the total population of 1.2 Billions, almost half live in rural areas. In spite of all the show casing of progress in the cities, fact remains that many rural areas still lack even the basic amenities like latrines and toilettes. To have a toilette in or adjoining the house is one of the basic necessities of modern times. Unfortunately, not many rural folks seem to have understood the importance of even this basic facility. Effectively, rural womenfolk suffer the most. To avoid prying eyes, they are forced to visit the open-air toilets under cover of darkness, which can be very inconvenient at times. It is humiliating, harrowing and extremely unhealthy. Further, it leads to spread of diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid and malaria. Many rural womenfolk suffer from urinary tract infections, kidney and liver problems, because they don’t have a safe place to go
Efforts to improve upon the situation of the lack of sanitation, in rural areas, have not met with much success so far. In the year 2001, a project to build latrines in rural areas was taken up with the help of World Bank. The latrines built under this scheme were used by rural folks for storage of grains or as verandahs for their houses. The reason for this failure can be very well traced to the fact that the womenfolk never participated or were not even consulted in this project. They need the sanitation facility most and should have been consulted about the project in the first place.
Women from the Indian state of Haryana , now seem to have taken a new lead. With rural womenfolk, giving their support to the cause, the movement appears to have caught the fascination of the village women everywhere and is spreading to other states too. If you ask any rural young girl today, about her expectations of her future bride groom, along with such usual expectations, such as being vegetarian, no vices, capable of getting a good job, a new expectation has come up. Most of the girls would say that the future groom must have a latrine in his house. Two years back, Government of Haryana with the help of few NGO’s, started a new movement under the slogan, “No Toilettes, No bride”. This movement has caught the fascination of rural womenfolk and is growing rapidly.
As things stand today, the widespread and illegal practice of the abortion of female fetuses in favor of sons has already reduced percentage of women population in state of Haryana. The girls with marriageable age and their parents are not willing to marry their daughters in a family, which does not have a latrine in the house. This social pressure has brought about a welcome change. Parents, who wish to get their boys married, have started building sanitation facilities in their houses on priority.
This change has not come about without a reason. There are many direct and indirect reasons. First of all, most of the girls of marriageable age are educated at least up to matriculation level. Many have taken technical courses in addition. This basic education has brought about certain change in their attitude towards life and their expectations from it. They keep watching serials and advertisements on TV. When they watch the heroines on TV, wearing silk dresses or Jeans and Tee shirts and going to work on their own vehicles, it makes a profound impact on these young girls and no wonder that they expect higher quality of life. Five or ten years back, one could always see girls riding pillion behinds their fathers or husbands. These days’ girls driving their own scooty are seen often.
Mr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder director of an organization called ‘Sulabh International’, which specializes in building of low cost rural latrines, considers this ‘No Toilette?No Bride! Movement as a bloodless coup.
There seems to be no doubt that this movement would certainly bring more self-respect and confidence back in the minds of rural womenfolk of India.
21 October 2009