Transformational change: How Bihar villages are getting better health, safety and new business opportunities.

Sunila Devi lives in Bihar, India. 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. We had to be alert so that we were not watched. It was upsetting.”

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

In 2015, the Domestos Toilet Academy, joined PSI and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help families in Bihar own their own toilet.

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 programme connects people to microfinance institutions so they can afford a clean and safe toilet.

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

And finally, the programme 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, the programme doesn’t just talk to individuals in the village, but the entire village, so a new social norm is created.  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 programme 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.”