india sanitation facilities - kitchen strike

If You Want to Eat, Build Me a Toilet

At last, India is waking up to the urgent need for clean and safe toilets.

So much so that PM Modi himself stressed the need for improved sanitation in his Independence Day speech, urging both government and private sectors to pitch in and ensure toilets for all within four years. And on August 31, the UN-backed nonprofit Sulabh International kick-started a nationwide “Toilet for Every House” campaign in Katra Sadatgang (UP). Since May, the organisation has been working to build over 100 toilets in the village, after two girls were gangraped and hung from a mango tree while out in the fields to relieve themselves. But in a country where 130 million homes lack toilets and nearly 600 million people practice open defecation, it’ll be several years before toilets for all is a reality. That’s why women in Amgaon, Maharashtra, are taking matters in their own hands.

Fed up with poor sanitation facilities, the women of Amgaon initiated a “kitchen strike” and refused to cook food until their husbands started to build toilets.

We have taken beatings from the men to get this work started. We will not allow our effort to go waste. Unless the toilets are completed within a reasonable time, the men had better learn to cook.

india's sanitation crisis hurts women - kitchen strike

mapSH (Map for Sanitation and Hygiene) visualises gram panchyats in India that are open-defecation free.

Like 72% of rural Indians, the residents of Amgaon—a village close to the Nagpur-Wardha highway—defecate in the open. Since road construction took away the village commons, both men and women now relieve themselves by the roadside itself. While squatting by the road is risky business for everyone, women are particularly vulnerable. On top of the physical discomfort, poor menstrual hygiene, and exposure to waterborne disease, women are also at risk for sexual assault.

As Down to Earth reports, the men initially argued they can’t build toilets without government aid. But after three days of trying to cook themselves, they gave in and started construction. To boost their efforts, Wardha District has offered the village a subsidy of Rs 10,000 per toilet. When the protest was staged in June, Amgaon had no toilets. Today, at least 60 toilets are under construction. People always say you get to a man’s heart through his stomach. Apparently, you can get to his brain that way, too.

Read the full story at Down To Earth: Kitchen Strike for Toilets