Behaviour change and the tale of two villages

By Prateek Sharma and Rakhi Mathai, Arghyam

The relationship between lack of toilets, toilet usage and open defecation are the core aspects of the BCC project. We got the opportunity to visit two of the villages covered under the project, where it is being rolled out through village campaign and events. If enthusiasm and excitement are indicators of people willing to participate in a project, then we found it aplenty at Hikkimagere village in Kadabgere taluk of Davangere.

Hikkimagere has 112 households (of which 12 already have a toilet). The village responded to the program well, with 88 tokens of interest being collected. The Panchayat Development Officer (PDO), Mr. Som Someshwar and others engaged with the people and were on hand to answer questions about the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. So was the panchayat president Mrs. T Vasathamma, who also highlighted the need to motivate and mobilise villagers at a personal level as well.

At the heart of the BCC project lies the message of a responsible man addressing the sanitation and hygiene needs of women and girls by doing the right thing i.e. constructing toilets and using them.

The men at Hikkimagere are doing just that and the women readily and happily talked about their plants to build toilets. Kottaramma and Chandramma are two such women who proudly told us about their plans for building toilets. The most thought provoking account came from 70-year old H. Basamma, who lives alone and got a toilet constructed. She takes special care when bathing to cover the latrine with a stone, else the excess water would end up choking and clogging the latrine. She says the excess water from bathing can be used elsewhere, like watering trees and plants. 

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Left: Kotaramma, who signed up for a toilet after the event; right: H Bassamma showing her toilet; bottom: Chandramma has 7 members in her house. Toilet construction was planned to begin in 2 days in the empty space marked by flat rocks in the picture.

The village prepared itself for the evening show run by campaign manager Prabhakar and two artists, Manjula and Mahesh. The village representatives and the PDO assembled on the dais for the evening event, which started off with the PDO delivering a speech to the gathered crowd. The campaign team made public announcements, ran the campaign songs and then started the video program which contained the message from the CEO, the responsible man movie and testimonials of other village residents from different villages talkingthe importance of toilets in their daily lives.

45 females and 70 males from Hikkimagere village attended the evenings event. 11 pledges were collected in this process. The women were very interested in the ‘Sawal’ skit, which showed the perils of open defecation from a women’s point of view. About 300 children were in attendance too, of which 189 were from classes 8, 9 and 10. 

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Left: a toilet with the campaign sticker on the door that is being used; right – top: crowd at the evening event in Hikkimagere village; right-bottom: women discussing and talking to campaign managers in Hikkimagere village

The second village, Rastemakunte in Bidarkere taluk had about 600 households. 400 people had gathered for the events and 54 tokens of interest were collected by the local swacchata doot, Mr. Rajappa. The village folk had a more lukewarm response when asked about the “Jaldi” campaign. This shows that a more intense effort is needed at Rastemakunte to invoke toilet awareness.

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