Living without toilets puts people at risk of disease and makes women vulnerable. Last year, 14-year old Nisha was attacked as she sought privacy in the bushes next to the disused railway track near the Rakhi Mandi slum where she lives. Her 10-year-old brother ran to tell his mother, Radha Verma, who rushed to the scene and arrived in time to rescue her.
Radha said: “Since this incident happened it has been in my mind that there should be a toilet in my home. I feel my children should not face any problems. My children should live comfortably.”
Today, following the work of WaterAid and their local partner Shramik Bharti, a non-governmental organisation which works to relieve poverty, the family has built a toilet in their home.
Watch Radha's story on the HSBC NOW channel on YouTube
Since the project began, the residents have built more than 100 household toilets as well as 178 soak pits – underground chambers that allow water to drain away slowly. More recently, a defunct community managed toilet has been restored, serving more than 500 people.
Radha added: “The benefit of a soak pit is that before I used to throw waste water outside which caused muck and bred mosquitoes – we used to have malaria and fever. Now that water is draining, there is no disease and the place remains clean.
Sangeeta Srivastava from Shramik Bharti said the biggest challenge people in the slum faced was that they do not own the land. Their homes could be demolished by the government at any time, so encouraging them to make improvements had been difficult.
She said: “It is only very recently that the community started to trust us. There are certain families in this slum living here for 45 years. They didn’t connect lack of safety with lack of toilets.”
Rajeev KJ who leads WaterAid’s programmes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar said: “Initially we focused on the cleanliness and educated people on the importance of hygiene practices. It helped them to believe that there are simple solutions for their complicated problems.”
The project has also repaired hand pumps, given community leaders water, sanitation and hygiene training and trained local masons to build toilets.
With financial support from the five-year HSBC Water Programme, the project will be able to help even more people.
Rajeev said: “We would like to see that every household has access to a toilet and safe water and they are able to maintain these facilities.”
To find out more about the HSBC Water Programme and its work with WaterAid, WWF and Earthwatch, visit www.thewaterhub.org
To see the full story about Radha and her family’s journey to build a toilet, visit www.wateraid.org/acrossthetracks