Seventeen year old Mamata Sahoo’s life in Motto village in Chandbali block of Bhadrak district in Odisha was unlike other teenagers her age. Affected by polio, she could neither go out with other girls nor could she be a part of household chores. She was dependent on her parents for everything, but the worst was requiring assistance for basic daily activities like going to the toilet and bathing. But life changed when a toilet was made customized to her needs.
When Mamata was diagnosed with polio as a child, she did not know what future awaited her. Even at that time doing anything by herself was a challenge, but she never really bothered as she was petite, so it was not difficult for her parents to pick her up and help her with basic daily chores.
The situation changed as she grew up in a large joint family. It was embarrassing depending on others for every small little thing. In the struggle to not be a burden for her parents, Mamata tried to crawl her way through the day, along the long corridor from the entrance to the backyard of her house. The absence of a toilet in the house was a huge challenge for her which got worse during the monsoons. The slippery pathway to the open defecation site seemed like the greatest obstacle of the day. She endured it, but when she attained puberty, the humiliation and trauma simply increased.
The journey to seek a change
It all began when a baseline assessment was held in Mamata’s village in order to understand the status of individual household toilets. The assessment revealed the plight of a number of residents without a toilet, especially those with certain disabilities or health conditions.
Keeping in view the critical condition of the village, an orientation was held by WaterAid and its partner to create basic awareness about the issue. The orientation, followed by a discussion inspired the villagers to diligently start thinking about changing the situation of water, sanitation, and hygiene in the village.
The villagers’ keen interest to improve access to clean water and decent toilets led to their capacity building with in-depth discussions. The village committee members and volunteers came along to support the cause. This included intense orientation sessions on the types of disabilities, appropriate design criteria of toilets, and the ways in which toilets can be made inclusive for all. The team also conducted door-to-door visits to examine the condition of each house, and plan the construction of the toilets accordingly.
When the team reached Mamata’s house, the family had been waiting and welcomed them. The experts analysed the house and discussed with Mamata, specific requirements for a toilet. They then shared feasible design options to be considered by the family.
Simple steps to an easy life
While Mamata’s house was finally going to have a toilet, the overall analysis and discussions led to the following changes –
The present scenario
Mamata exudes confidence and cannot stop smiling when asked about the toilet in her house. She shares how relieved she is with having access to a personal toilet and not going out in the open. She is now comfortable bathing and using the toilet all by herself. She is also proud of the fact that thanks to her, her family has stopped defecating in the open as well.
Evidently, Mamata now leads a dignified life with safety, security, and independence. She isn’t dependent on anyone in today’s date to take her to the toilet for her daily chores. The embarrassment has been replaced by quiet self-assurance and confidence. Moreover, Mamata is now an inspiration for the rest of the village who is a tad bit apprehensive about constructing household toilets.