When Shajahan’s marriage was fixed, his mother, Shamshun decided to have a toilet constructed within the premises of their home so that her new daughter-in-law, Shalma did not have to suffer the way she did.
“I never had access to a toilet, in my father’s home prior to my marriage or in my in-laws’ home after my marriage,” she said, thinking back about the difficulties she had to endure while defecating in the open.
In the Bollavaram Gram Panchayat of Guntur district where Shamshun lives with her family, up until eight months ago, defecating in the open was the normal practice. It involved walking long distances just to relieve themselves.
“I cannot even talk about the monsoon months and the hardships that the season represented for us women – just to answer nature’s call,” she added.
What, to her, was particularly humiliating was that several of her relatives who lived elsewhere visited her home but never stayed for longer than 12 hours for fear of having to defecate in the open. “A close relative who lived in Dubai just refused to visit my home during his visit to India because we had no toilet,” she said, the pain evident in her eyes.
So when she heard from her neighbours about the Swachh Bharat scheme that was being implemented in her village, she attended a few meetings conducted by the Sarpanch and other officers. She then decided to have a toilet built, using the incentive provided under the scheme.
“When I gathered all the information I could about construction, disbursement of incentive through installments, I was happy in anticipation,” Shamshun said, as she made her plan.
In addition to the incentive money, she put in Rs 4000 from her own side to the complete the toilet, well before her Shajahan’s wedding.
Her whole family uses the facility now. Moreover with Shalma pregnant now, she wants to be extra careful about hygiene and safety. “I do not want to put her health at risk. Nor do I want to send her to her parents’ house as they do not have a toilet yet,” she said. Shamshun is now planning to ask her in-laws to get a toilet as well.