One of the greatest skills needed today, is the ability to change long-established attitudes and habits.
This is the task that faced GOAL India in Mousuni GP, a remote village with a population of 8010 people located in Bengal. Almost 60 per cent of the population in Mousini GP were practicing open defecation and the unhygienic environment was having a direct impact on their health. It emerged that while most families had access to a mobile phone, hardly any had access to a toilet. Hardly surprising then that open defecation was widespread.
GOAL identified a number of villagers who volunteered to lead a campaign to bring open defecation to an end. They began by setting an example: they built toilets at their own homes. After a short time, they began lobbying their neighbours to do the same, and soon most people in the village had done so. It made a huge difference in the sanitation practices in the general area.
"I have done nothing yet and want to move on with this positive spirit and mindset"
Abedan Bibi (35) lives in Mousini GP with her two daughters, aged 11 and 14. Her husband works away from home. Their daughters are disabled, and cannot walk or talk.
Abedan attended the GOAL India programme, where she learnt the importance of stopping open defecation: “It was shameful when people watched my daughters and me openly defecating. It was disrespectful for the family, but I had no alternative. Things changed when I attended the GOAL India programme, and decided to build a toilet at my house, so that my daughters can use it without any feeling of shame. After all it’s a matter of a women dignity.”
Abedan became a natural leader in her community, and has encouraged 35 other families to make toilets at their homes. When asked to comment on her achievement, she answered “I have done nothing yet and want to move on with this positive spirit and mindset. One day I would love to see my village and the entire region declared free from open defecation.”