#WorldToiletDay: Empowering Families to Improve Sanitation in India

Sunila Devi lives in Bihar, India. India is a country of 1.3 billion people, half of which don’t have access to a toilet. Without proper sanitation facilities, 600,000 people have no choice but to relieve themselves out in the open.

“It was difficult going in the open. Other people keep coming and going,” Sunila says. “We had to be alert so that we were not watched. It was upsetting.”

As a mother, Sunila was told about the dangerous health implications of poor sanitation on her children. Sanitation-related diseases can keep children out of school and become life-threatening.

In Bihar, where nearly 80% of rural households have no toilet, the Domestos Toilet Academy is operating in partnership with PSI, building on an initiative which was also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they’ve helped create a new market where, as of November 2016, individuals have purchased 86,000 toilets so far.

The program simplifies the purchase of a toilet. Buying a toilet can involve 15-20 different transactions. The program connects trained cement ring manufacturers to the providers of bricks, doors, pans and other items to minimize the complexity of buying a toilet.

Even when the parts are accessible, it’s not easy for families like Sunila’s to afford a toilet. A new toilet can cost anywhere from 15,000-20,000 rupees. For many rural people, that’s three to four times their monthly salary. That’s why the program connects people to microfinance institutions so they can afford a clean and safe toilet.

And finally, the program provides education about the health and safety benefits of toilets and encourages people to change their habits from going outside to using a household toilet. To do this, PSI works with the entire village to create a new social norm. It is only when everyone in the village is using a toilet that they get the full health benefit of being “open defecation free.”

An open-defecation-free India is Prime Minister Modi’s vision, and this program is supporting this vision, helping everyone in India get a toilet in their own home.

Standing outside her new, clean toilet Sunila says proudly, “I never thought having a toilet would be so useful. It’s good for our children. Now my children will not have to go outside to relieve themselves.”

This World Toilet Day, we celebrate a partnership that has worked to empower people like Sunila to improve sanitation in their own communities. Watch the video below to hear more from Sunila Devi and learn about the powerful results of the Domestos Toilet Academy.