India, Jharkhand: with access to the toilet came access to dignity

This Government of India programme offers incentives for families below the poverty line to construct toilets with technical designs approved by the District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM) responsible for sanitation.

However, the evidence is that people with special needs, or the differently abled are being left out, since even if their families have toilets, these are not user friendly or appropriate. This means that, despite the programme designed to be ‘total’, there is not really universal access and not all people can live with dignity.

To enhance the inclusiveness of access and to sensitise the service providers and the community on the need for inclusive approaches in planning, design and implementation, several initiatives were undertaken by the Regional Office East for the state of Jharkhand along with Gram Jyoti, a partner of WaterAid. All this was possible because of one person, Jitendra Turi of Sisanathur village, Jharkhand who proved to be really special.

Jitendra suffers from multiple disabilities, with locomotor, visual and mental impairments. He comes from a Scheduled Caste (‘lower caste’ in India) family and lives with his parents. Even at the age of 25, he is still dependent on his mother for most activities. He is not a child and cannot go to school and he cannot participate in village activities.

The family did not have a toilet at home, unaware of its importance in reducing dependency and increasing dignity for their son so that he could lead as normal a life as possible. For defecation, his mother usually took him to the outskirts of the village. Sometimes, when was unable to take him out, she would ask him to defecate in a corner of the village lane, which earned him the ridicule of children and villagers. “I felt such shame in telling my mother to help me for defecation. I am grown up but how can I go out? I cannot see, nor am I able to walk,” recalls Jitendra.

Read the full story about Jitendra by Meeta Jaruhar from WaterAid India in Source Bulletin, May 2010

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