Friday, 22 February 2013

Day 6 - Part 1, Empowering, Digging & Powerful

Day 6 was a day of two parts, there was such a split between the morning and the afternoon I have divided the blog into part 1 & 2 so that the messages do not get lost.

We arrived at the village of Amrod early morning to a slight chill in the air and the strong scent of incense, this was unlike the previous greetings where the crowds had gathered to greet us, here we were met by just a few people and the community appeared to continue their daily routines around us. We walked a short distance through the village to the Hindu temple, here the crowds gathered to greet us, again a fairly quiet affair in comparison to earlier visit. The village elected representatives and elders gave us a Hindu welcome however this time we were painted with orange Delaks and given small coconuts rather than the flowers we had grown used to.

Santoshi in blue talking through our translator
Once the traditional greeting was over a women named Santoshi welcomed us on behalf of the village, she worked with an organisation called Samartha, a local WaterAid partner who's purpose is to improve the lives of small rural communities, to enhance the infrastructure, education, roads, facilities. She advised that there were 84 households in the village and that in September 2012 WaterAid and local partners had supported the village by showing them they could fit toilets for a small amount of money, the community had thought it would cost at least a years income to construct and for this reason had not taken the steps to install any in the village. 100% of the the village used to go to the toilet in the open, this would cause the women in particular dignity issues, they would hold their need to go until the hours of dark to prevent the men seeing them doing what we all must do. When the women suffered from illness they would have to run into the open spaces to go to the toilet, when seen by men they would have to stop and stand up due to the cultural expectations, as one women described this would mean that she needed to bathe several times a day when really ill, sometimes she would stand but the body would not stop, as she out it.

A young man from a neighbouring village stood up to talk, he was very well dressed and said what others had been holding back. In his village a young girl was recently raped when going to the toilet in the open, his village had said enough is enough and with the help of Samartha, installed toilets close to homes, the women and girls in that village now felt safe. Hearing this motivator gave mixed emotions, I felt saddened that the catalyst for change was sexual assault and I felt comfort in the fact that the men of the village had set about protecting their female family members. So strong was this action they felt they had to share with other villages, they therefore set about informing others of what they had done, the village of Amrod listened and set about making their changes. I did not catch the mans name, but he spoke with such passion, he felt that he needed to share his message, living life the way had was not acceptable and the surrounding communities needed to be empowered.

The people of Amrod created a committee including women and youth members and Samartha and with the support of WaterAid the committee engaged with the local community to educate them of the importance having toilets and how with self building the costs could be low. This community wanted change and they want it fast, they picked up their shovels and they have worked hard, WaterAids work here is very much about guidance, support and education, the village has raised money, they have put in the labour and they have said we are ready to embrace a better way of living.

The government will financially support communities that have created a full plan of action, detailing their goals and key objectives, they must also raise 3% of the overall cost of the entire plan. 3% may not seek like a high percentage however these people are cash poor, recognised as living below the poverty line on many occasions. Together they have raised the 3%, they are ready to propose the plan to the local government, if agreed this will ensure a water pipe is laid to the village where they will have close access to clean and safe drinking water. This is not a community waiting for others to do on their behalf, they know the best route forward is to take action.

So successful have been their actions the village only need to build 9 more toilets before they have 100% households with a toilet. This is an amazing achievement considering the short amount of time they have been working to turn things around, just 5 months. As soon as the village had a sufficient amount of toilets installed that all community members could gain access, the children were given drums, these drums were used each time children witnessed someone openly going to the toilet, they would create such a noise the person would feel embarrassed and stop doing it. This again has been successful and the power of the children has won over the adults. I love that they have done this, it has set these kids up brilliantly for the future, they know now that they have a voice.

Feeling inspired, myself and 3 others were given the opportunity to joined a family who were building a toilet close to their home, we got right in there, digging and scraping out to large holes in the ground to create 2 pits that would capture the waste and filter through the water. I also had the chance to lay some bricks on another one of the toilet constructions, something I have never done before but very much enjoyed. I have to take my hat of to these guys, the sun was beating down on us, we were bent over digging and removing earth by hand and I found it hard work, to think that they have worked tirelessly to get to the point they have, around their needs to work in order to provide an income, in such a short amount of time is outstanding.

The construction of the toilets is fairly basic, just a simple brick box with a footplate latrine and a bucket of water to wash away the waste. The technique used for capturing the waste is very clever as the use of 2 pits means that they are able to use and fill one, once it is full they seal it off and transfer to the other, after approx 6-12 months they empty the first and use the content as fertiliser, nourishing the arid grounds. It seems that everything they do here has multi-purposes, maximising every opportunity to enhance and improve lives.

Amarsingh Vishwakama (65)
Inspired a village to build toilets
to protect the women and girls!
Whilst amongst the community we talked with one of the elders, Amarsingh Vishwakama and two of his granddaughters, he told us of how he was fearful in past for his female families safety, he was scared that the ones be loves would suffer abuse both verbally and physically. The young girls told of the frequency the attacks occurred, it happens often was their message. We are in 2013, a time when we have so much, the violation of ones body should never be, not ever, to be violated because you need to do a basic human function is beyond comprehension. Whilst they talked to us they had smiles on their faces, they were grateful for what they now had and what was to come in the future, they were not dwelling on the past, instead they were using it as reference and making the changes that were within their powers to make.

I very much support an organisation called Imagine It, I mentioned them in my first blog and their ethos is about living, loving and laughing, this family was demonstrating all of these things to me, I therefore asked if they would like to have their picture taken with the Imagine It bear, Porridge, they were very happy to do so, see the picture below.

The stories told on this visit hit hard for myself and a number of the group, it was tough to hold back the emotions but pity was not what these people wanted, tears from a group of Brits was not what they wanted, what they wanted was support, to know that we were listening to them, to know they were being heard and for us to spread the message that with government support, the right level of eduction, empowerment and direction, they would take action in order to achieve what needs to be achieved.

These people are truly inspiring, loving, caring and so generous to allow us, a group of visitors to their country to spend time with us, tell us their very difficult stories and to answer all our questions.

I left the village around midday feeling so glad I have come on this trip, that I have been able to see for myself the difference a little bit of help can make and that life really is about making the best of what you have and always striving to be all that you can be.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog once again ,But this time i can feel some change in the people in the words lets hope what these people said to you today spreads across the land. even the children with their drums It must have been so uplifting for you to hear that Hope you manage to do a bit of site seeing, see you soon xxx