Women leading the sanitation revolution in Maharashtra
Story by FINISH Mondial GESI Working Group
Jayshree Yona Valvi, is 25 years old and a mother of two. She has lived all her life till now without a toilet in Wadjhakan Gram Panchayat, around 20 kms from Nandurbar city. Open defecation is an age-old practice that is seen as ‘normal’ in many communities. She got married at a very young age to a mason, Yona Valvi. Their family lived in a pucca house, but everyone including Jayshree, her husband and two sons, practiced open defecation. The men of the family could go anytime during the day but Jayshree and her mother-in-law had to wait till it gets dark. Fearful of snakes and insects, as well as the threat of sexual violence every time they ventured into the bushes, Jayshree knew the importance of using a toilet.
Vulnerability to violence is a real threat faced by women while practicing open defecation. And not only the safety but open defecation has greater health risks for women than for men. They are prone to infection especially during menstruation, gynaecological complications due to holding urination or defecation or attack by insects or animals while in the dark.
Jayshree Tai was one of the participants in the women group meeting conducted by FINISH in their village in February 2021 when the Cluster Coordinator, Vijay Gavit talked about the importance of using toilets especially for women. Vijay shared some real stories which could happen to any of them. A pregnant woman (Jyoti Deepak Gopal) from Vavada village of Nandurbar was hit by a drunken man’s vehicle when she was defecating in the dark, leading to death of both the mother and the child. In another such incident, an elderly woman in Rajale village slipped while she was out for defecation during the rains and fractured her leg.
The eerie silence after these stories spoke loudly that this could happen to any of these women or might have happened in the past already! Jayshree decided that it is time she prioritises a toilet for herself and her family. When she went back home, she discussed it with her husband who supported her decision, but this required money. For that, both worked day and night and Jayshree herself did labour work in the village earn money. They soon build their own household toilet! Now, the whole family uses the toilet. She was felicitated in another meeting by the women for being an inspiration.
“When you (FINISH Society) took the meeting, I didn’t have a toilet. After the meeting I decided I will build one, for that even if I have to go work as a labour I will, from the savings I have built a toilet for myself and my family”, said Jayshree Yona Valvi”
More women like Jayshree are now leading the behavioural change by motivating others as well to build toilets and use them & creating an environment where they are not afraid to ask for their basic needs.
“You educate a man, you educate a man, you educate a woman, you educate a generation”