A village in Gujarat was seeing increasing number of dengue cases. Mosquitoes would breed in open spaces where the villagers used to defecate as there were no toilets in the entire village Kukusvada located near Chorwad in Mangrol Taluka of Janugadh district in Gujarat. The problem was becoming so grave that it had given birth to several diseases like cholera and malaria. The villagers' lack of awareness towards sanitation and hygiene had led to this situation. The villagers were clueless on how to deal with it.
At that time, intervention by non-profit organizations proved to be life changing for the village as initiatives taken helped them get rid of the unhygienic practices and move towards a healthy lifestyle. Coastal Salinity Prevention Cell (CSPC) and Aga Khan Rural Support Programs, India (AKRSPI) undertook the task of changing the situation by spreading awareness on cleanliness. The first thing was to educate people on importance of having toilets and why is it necessary to curb the practice of open-defecation.
To construct one toilet, a total sum of Rs. 15-17 thousand is required of which Rs. 4600 were paid by the government under the Total Sanitation Project and a Rs. 1000 was contributed by CSPC. The remaining expenditure had to be borne by the beneficiaries. Kirit Bhai, Program Assistant, AKRSPI, said, "Those belonging to economically weaker sections took up the responsibility of constructing the toilets themselves and proceeded with the work as and when the money was arranged. We helped people of twenty villages of Mangrol, Maliya Hati and Varavel to set up toilets in their houses."
Sangavad Village now has toilets in majority of its houses. However, it was not an easy task to convince the villagers as they were so habitual of defecating in open that they had refused to adopt the idea of constructing toilets in their houses initially. Various modes of communication were then adopted to propagate the message of cleanliness among them. Street plays, school programs, counseling sessions etc. helped change the villagers' mindset.
One day a family took the initiative of constructing a toilet in their house and soon the others too got inspired to build toilets in their houses as well. Merubhai Bachubhai Ram, member of Water Committee of Chhatroda said, "The older generation of the village was not ready to accept the idea of having a toilet inside their houses. But the awareness and willingness of the younger generation helped overcome their hesitation and here they are benefiting from the newly constructed toilets."
90-95% families of eight villages have built toilets under the Coastal Area Development Program. This has made life of the womenfolk in these villages much easier. A local woman said, "Earlier, we had to wait for the dark to go and relieve ourselves. It was very difficult to hold it for long as it gave us pain and other problems but we just couldn't go out of shame." Physically disabled and senior citizens too got some relief after the construction of toilets in the house.
Renowned storyteller of Gujarat, Shri Morari bapu said, "If there is one less temple built, it will do, but construction of toilets is inevitable." The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that this set up has not only helped eradicate diseases, fear and hesitation from the lives of villagers but has helped increase self-respect among them.