Story of Sanitation in Khempa
The small village of Khempa is situated in Samtse Dzongkhag. It has 34 registered households and total population of 186 residents of which 95 are male and 91female. The entire community did not necessarily see the need for proper toilets and open defecation was an accepted norm in spite of all the inconveniences encountered.
The local health workers have reported that many of the diseases like chronic diarrhea, intestinal worms, bilharzias and hepatitis were directly related to the open defecation practice of the populace. There was an urgent need to make the people realize that toilets were an important part of achieving good sanitation. Without proper public understanding about why sanitation matters, and what is necessary to achieve good sanitation, the construction of toilets alone is not good enough to break the cycle of disease. To materialize this realization into action, while visiting this village, I was met with difficulties in convincing the villagers as most of the people didn’t want to invest in constructing new toilets when they have been used to using open spaces.
Women and girls here have silently tolerated the embarrassment of the lack of this basic sanitation facility. They often waited until before dawn or after dark to relieve themselves. To plan for this, many women either hold it in, which leads to urinary tract infections, or drink less water, which can lead to dehydration.
I had several consultations with the community particularly with the women, the aged and the children. The long engagements paved the way for the community to recognize the need for proper facilities particularly for the aged, the infirmed and the women folk. The actual construction and use of the toilets was much easier once the change in mindset was achieved.
Today, each household in Khempa village has their own flush latrines. Women no longer need to seek the cover of darkness to answer the call of nature. The overall sanitation condition of the village has improved.
Toilet construction under the REAP II project is changing the sanitation scenario in several rural communities. The collective efforts of the villagers enabled the project to achieve 100% toilet construction in several target villages like Khempa village, where my colleagues work.
Tandin, 15 years old female recounted her bitter experiences of having to go to toilet at nights and the trouble she would impose on her elder sister to wake up from a deep slumber to accompany her to the toilet, which was quite far from their house. She is happy that she no longer has to wake her sister up now that they have their own toilet with a bathroom attached to it.
“The REAP project is giving us the materials for the construction of our toilets”, she said, spreading her arms to emphasize the strategic contribution for the improvement in health and well being of the community. “We should also extend that sort of love to our neighbors in the nearby villages: you see….we always come together as one family.”