The eyes of Beena seem to lit up with pride when she said, “Our daughter Gauri has built us a toilet in our own house.” Beena and her husband Malkhan Singh reside in the Bhanwar Singh Camp slum of Delhi with their four children. 10-year-old Gauri is her youngest daughter. The husband works as a temporary leaning staff with the Municipal Corporation and Beena works as domestic help in nearby apartments.
Gauri being the youngest of all children was often at the receiving end of neglect. As a result, she developed some bad habits when it came to her personnel hygiene. Talking about it, the girl said, “I don’t like brushing my teeth in the morning.” The family didn’t have a toilet at their home and the Community Toilet was far away and therefore, Gauri had to go for defaecation in the open when her sisters came home from school.
All this took a toll on Gauri’s health. She started to remain ill and missing school on most of the days. She complained of decaying teeth, stomach aches, headache, and fatigue. As both her parents had to work for earning a living, there was no one to take care of her. With time, her situation only worsened.
It was during this time that Save the Children, with the help of local NGO partners, started implementing the project ‘Promotion of Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Practices in the Urban Slums of Delhi’. The project targeted Bhanwar Singh Camp and the schools in the vicinity. With the permission of the Education Department, our partner started conducting sessions in the school on the issues of WASH and hygiene.
At one of these sessions, Gauri came in contact with the project staff. During the sessions, she got knowledge on personnel hygiene and why it was important to maintain it. Now she could understand the reason for her illness. She was then linked with the Child Health Committee in the school and also took part in various street plays organized on the themes of sanitation and hygiene. All the efforts made her realize the ill effects of her bad habits.
Gauri changed her routine for good, and gradually it changed her behaviour. She started brushing her teeth regularly and also started using the community toilets. Not only that, but she also made her whole family use the community toilets. But as the toilet was a bit far away from their house, the family faced problems like long queues and couldn’t use it regularly. This made Gauri realize the need for having a toilet in their house for which she started reasoning with her parents. Her efforts bore fruit when her reluctant parents relented and built a toiled in their house.
Gauri is now regular in her school and no longer complains of illness. The teachers too saw marked great improvement in Gauri’s performance in school. The girl has now become a flag bearer of the message of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in her community. Inspired by her, many young girls have started to use toilets.
It is satisfying for us at Save the Children that our intervention is driving change at the community level wherein children are picking up good habits to keep diseases at bay.