On a field visit to the village of Velakkanatham, we visited Kamalam’s house. Kamalam is one of many borrowers in her village who had obtained a microloan to fund the construction of a toilet in their home. She belonged to a group that was headed by Vennila. Our last Fellow in Trichy had already interviewed Vennila to find that installing a water connection had made a positive impact on her quality of life; therefore, I decided to visit Kamalam another member of the same group. Her home happened to be close to other borrowers we were visiting during the day.
Kamalam was in the process of constructing her house under the Chief Minister’s Solar Powered Green House Scheme. As we began our conversation, I asked her if she had constructed the toilet that she had intended to build. She replied in the affirmative. When I asked to see the toilet, she directed me to the structure abutting the house. I was more than a little surprised to see the inside of the toilet. Though she had utilized the loan for the intended purpose of building a toilet, she was instead using it as a kitchen. With the toilet pan temporarily sealed, the cookstove and the utensils were neatly arranged around the room. “I did not have enough space inside the house to house the kitchen and utensils, so I was forced to use the toilet as the kitchen,” she said. I asked her if she had also constructed the pit and she informed me that she had in fact built a septic tank and directed my attention to it. However, her family had never used the toilet they had so diligently constructed. In an effort to understand why she decided to use the toilet as a kitchen I pressed for an explanation. She said that the government only gives a subsidy for a 300 square-foot house and she found it difficult to accommodate all her belongings in the space. “I want to build another toilet over the septic tank and I am looking for another loan to start construction,” Kamalam added.
What does her family do relieve themselves now? Regrettably, they still practice open defecation. As we prepared to take leave of Kamalam’s house we reiterated the benefits of healthy sanitation practice and told her that she must make every effort to use the toilet she had already constructed for the health and safety of her family. She promised us that she would, and she would also try to mover her kitchen into the house to use the toilet for its intended purpose.