A Healthy Investment – Latrine Construction in Agon, Mewat
Agon is one of many remote villages in the rural region of Mewat, Haryana, India. The region is underdeveloped and inhabitants live without many basic sanitation amenities, including drainage and latrines.
In 2002, the Sehgal began work in Agon in order to make it a model village. When work commenced, Agon had 602 houses and a population of over 4,729. There were only two private latrines in entire village. Villagers used open fields for defecation. They would also dump domestic water on the streets due to a lack of proper drainage facilities. This made accessing fields for open defecation challenging as the streets were narrow, filthy and waterlogged.
The Sehgal Foundation has promoted the construction of latrines in each household. They’ve also educated target groups around the village about the importance of hygiene and sanitation. Soak pits have been constructed at a low cost around the village for wastewater disposal. The pits enable water to seep back into the ground.
Promoting latrines amongst villagers has been quite challenging. Many are used to open fields and find the small area around latrines to be confining. The Foundation has found it most effective to talk to families individually about the benefits of private latrines.
Muneeri and Noor Mohammed are an elderly couple from Agon. They live in a single room dwelling with no electricity. Their four children have left their home, and the couple now depend on them for their livelihood. The Sehgal Foundation’s field workers talked to them about the importance of latrines and how they can have one built in their home. They explained the different models they could choose from, the area and two pits for disposal needed, and the cost.
Muneeri was initially unsure whether it was worth 2,500 rupees to construct a latrine. She also worried that part of their backyard would be covered. However, her husband Noor is 70 years old, and finds it tiring walking to the outskirts of the village to relieve himself. He said, “At this old age, my legs and arms have become weak. I often worry about slipping in the muddy streets. Sometimes I lose control due to the pressure and spoil my clothes. Severe weather conditions or diarrhea are miserable times for me.” Noor was happy that the Foundation was willing to assist them and quickly agreed to have a latrine constructed in their backyard.
A few days after its construction, Muneeri and Noor came to deeply appreciate how comfortable it is to have a private latrine at their home. “I am a poor man, but my money has been spent for the right cause,” said Noor. Muneeri is equally happy. She said, “I fought with my husband when he agreed to have a latrine constructed in the backyard, but now I realize how beneficial it is to have one. It has made our lives very comfortable. Since only a little space in the corner of the yard was used and the pits are underground, our backyard still looks the same.” She further added, “When my grandchildren used to visit, I frequently had to walk them to the fields, but now I don’t have to worry. My children appreciated our decision.”
Muneeri is deeply grateful and cannot stop talking about their new investment. She also has a message for all of her fellow villagers. “Owning materialistic things may or may not be necessary, but every house must have a latrine”. Sehgal Foundation is greatly encouraged by the appreciative responses from villagers like Muneeri and Noor. The project is continuing through the village of Agon and is bringing hope for change.
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