The home of Jayalakshmi and Alagarswamy in the Poolampatti hamlet of Kenjampatty gram panchayat in Madurai district now has a brand new toilet. The entrance to the facility has been decorated with motifs and designs, similar to those adorning entrances of temples.
When asked why she had decorated her toilet like a temple, Jayalakshmi said, “Why do we go to a temple? It is to ask God for good health and wealth! Using a toilet will give us good health and wealth will automatically follow. So a toilet is as important as a temple to us.”
Earlier, the agricultural labourer along with her husband, a palmist, and her two school going children defecated in the open.
The toilet was inaugurated during Pongal with the traditional boiling of milk. The milk is allowed to overflow to signify the overflowing of good like the wealth, health and harmony.
Having attended various triggering exercises conducted in her village, Jayalakshmi is aware of faecal-oral transmission by flies that sit on open faeces and later contaminate their food, causing diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, etc. Also, she is happy that they do not have to walk far or at a particular time to relieve themselves.
“And just as we keep our temple clean, we should keep our toilets clean and tidy,” she added.
Significantly, the decision to build toilets and use them was taken by the entire community in Kenjampatty as a result of various triggering exercises and awareness building activities carried out by the district administration.
As many as 34 homes had new toilets which were inaugurated last Pongal (14th January, 2017), according to Additional District Collector, Rohini Bidari. “We were quite surprised by this community initiative of giving equal importance to toilets. It showed that people were convinced about the importance of good sanitation practices,” she said. People in that village seemed to celebrate their new toilet facility in the same manner they celebrate new homes or vehicles.
Madurai is home to 420 GPs of which 384 have been declared ODF and toilet coverage for the balance 36 GPs will be completed by the end of February 2017. “The entire district will be ODF by the end of this month,” assured Bidari.
As far as Kenjampatty gram panchayat concerned, of the 1093 households there, 600 homes had toilets earlier. Over the last few months nearly 450 toilets were constructed and the balance 43 are under progress even though residents of those households do have access to sanitation facilities, she said.
Just as Jayalakshmi has done, other families are following suit – getting their toilets built and ensuring that they use them for the health of the entire family.