“Sanitation for all” is a tag line promoted by developing nations. It might not be a priority for people living in urban spaces but it is a major issue faced in rural India. There are some areas which have tackled these issues with the help of government and NGOs, while there are others who are yet to see the needed change. I, on the other hand, had the opportunity to witness one such inspirational story in Tiruchirappalli, a district in Tamil Nadu. How a loan changed the lives of Manjula and group who used the loan for building toilet at their homes so that none of the family members would have to walk a kilometre just to relieve themselves. Manjula Selvakumar is the leader of this group and she emphasises how a toilet in her place could make so much difference in various aspects of her life. When I met 33 year old Manjula, the first thing that she did was to show her a constructed toilet because being a labourer with a meager income of Rs 9000 makes one think, how a woman is making a difference to her family and is an inspiration for other villagers. Though the monthly household income is equal to the cost of building a toilet, she understands the importance of safe sanitation. Life was hard before the toilet was constructed. She explains “It was difficult to walk when someone was sick - this was especially true for the older members of the family". Also, being a woman, I could sense a shame when the female members of the family defecated during the day and were forced to consume less water in order to relieve themselves only at night. But she, along with the other four members in the group, decided they would not walk a kilometre to defecate and thought of building a toilet which could be used by their families. As a layman, one would think it’s only the women who need protection and care in this matter whereas men can be carefree about this scenario. But men too get sick, they too can be bitten by insects, or attacked by animals. But in this case, all the women took the initiative, not only for themselves, but for the protection of the rest of the family. Who could imagine that lack of sanitation could be a reason for underdevelopment of a nation? It is only for us to understand that a loan could make a difference not only in the lives of these individuals but also inspire and push people in the surrounding areas to give importance to such development.
Determination is the key