I went to meet Guna, but since she was not home I met with another woman in her group, Kanageswari. Rakkampatti, the village, where Kanageswari lives, is about 50 kilometers outside of Trichy, Tamil Nadu. I met her at a temple near the outskirts of the Rakkampatti, next to which were a few cows tethered by rope to posts in the ground. We dusted off a cement slab next to the road, where we sat down to talk. Kanageswari was holding her 6-month-old son, who had just woken up from his nap at noon. There was another woman sitting next to me with a baby girl, and she urged me to pick her up. So the visit, informal to begin with, was punctuated by me picking up the baby girl as she crawled onto my lap, then holding her arms while she learned to walk.
Kanageswari’s husband works as an agricultural laborer on a rice paddy, and rides a bike 20 minutes to work everyday. In addition to her 6-month year old son, she has two young girls who are in pre-kindergarten. When asked about the loan, Kanageswari said that she gave the Rs.10,000 to her husband, but the family has not built a toilet. When I asked if her family had plans for construction, she was not sure, and did not know if they had contacted a mason or not. The Guardian staff member (Milaap’s partner organization who distributed the loan) told me that the husband had likely spent the money to cover other expenses. Kanageswari is not involved in financial decisions, and had no way to keep track of the money once she gave it to her husband. It will take a while for Kanageswari and her family to save up the Rs.15,000 that it costs to build a single-pit toilet, the cheapest model available in her area. Other families in the area are building toilets, so hopefully as the prevalence of toilets increases in Rakkampatti, Kanageswari and her family will make sanitation a priority and construct a toilet as their next big household expenditure.