"While trying to forget my shame, I would squat behind a rock to release myself. Even if someone saw me, I could not run. But now this toilet has become my pride," says Ratna Bahadur Shrestha, pointing to his toilet.
Fifty one year old Ratna, from Sombare Tole, Ward No. 3 Bahuntilpung VDC, Sindhuli District, cannot walk properly. The yield from his crops is barely enough to feed his small family for three months. His eldest girl is married, but the youngest one is still in school.
Unable to earn daily wages due to his disability, he knits baskets and makes halo (digging implements used by cattle) to make a living, for which he gets paid 12 kilograms of rice each month. He said that this was helping him to feed his family.
Until the Tilpung Chauki WASH project was initiated, Ratna was not bothered about defecating in the open. Only when he was part of the project did he realise that what he was doing was not right.
Ratna says, "We were ingesting our own faeces through the chicken, dogs and flies. When I learned about the faeces transmission routes, I was totally shocked. After this, I became determined to be the first one in the village to build a toilet, even if it meant asking others for their help. I knew I was in no physical condition to dig a toilet."
Despite his initial excitement, he was forced to wait for help. He says, "Nobody had time until they finished building their own toilet. I have no qualms about being the last person to build a toilet."
Ratna is grateful to the WASH Users Committee member, Balaram Giri, his family and the neighbours from Sombare Tole who came to his aid to build the toilet. Ratna says, "I hope none of their family members ever suffer from the water and sanitation related diseases. May they always remain healthy and hearty."
The Users Committee supported Ratna with a pan and cement, while the neighbours helped in the construction process.
Closing his toilet door Ratna says, "My family members really suffered from diarrheoa and dysentery in the past, but when I was provided the opportunity to learn about the importance of hand washing and toilet use during the community health and sanitation volunteer training and the cluster education sessions on hygiene and sanitation, I was able to convince my family members to use a temporary toilet and wash their hands regularly.
"As the temporary toilet released a lot of odour and the toilet pit filled up quickly, I then sought help from the community members and they did come to my aid. If I had not received any support, I still would have gone ahead and built a permanent toilet by saving up from my earnings."
"Like me, people probably did not use a toilet in the past because they did not understand the benefits of using a toilet. Even the educated people did not use a toilet. This project has been a real eye opener for everyone. Hopefully, the neighbouring communities also learn from us and support the poor people to build a toilet, because it is necessary for each and every member of the community to use a toilet for the entire community to be healthy."
Written by: Prem Kumari Kaucha, Senior Health and Sanitation Facilitator
Project: Tilpung Chauki WASH Project
Donor Agency: WaterAid Nepal