Chat Toilets: A Social Innovation that keeps traditions intact
Defecation is one of the biggest problems for women in villages. They have to get up early and finish it before sun rises. And if they are ill, it becomes immensely troublesome. To solve this problem, government encourages villagers to have toilets in their houses or to have community toilets in communities.
All across the country these community toilets are being constructed. While they are being used well in some parts, they turn into store rooms eventually in most of the villages. The story of the village Deolgaon Mali in Buldhana district in the bowels of rural Vidarbha, of eastern Maharashtra is quite different and inspiring.
Like many other BDOs, Mr. Rajendra Patil (BDO of Deolgaon Mali) also tried to construct a community toilet for women. He approached the villagers for the same, but they refused to accept the money. They argued that since village women go out in groups, they didn’t need conventional toilets. They just demanded a wall so as to cover the area from public view. But since that was not a sanitary practice, Patil refused to give money.
After this, talks were initiated between villagers and Patil. Villagers told that conventional type of toilets were also established in the past, but women stopped using them after a few months. Villagers also told that since women go out in groups, they are safe from wild animals. There they also get to talk to each other, something that is not possible otherwise because of the busy schedule of people. Patil understood their problems and finally with the help of villagers, he came up with the concept of “Chat Toilets”.
Rather than in a straight row, these toilets are built in a semi-circular shape. Their side walls are raised only a little so that women can have privacy as well as they can see each other’s face while talking. These are protected from public view by a big semicircular wall. These are also cost effective, since water source can be put at center and women don’t need to take it all over to the row. The excreta goes into an underground tank; from where it decomposes naturally.
These toilets were a big success in Deolgaon Mali and several other toilets were built on the same model. The village is also planning to build toilets on some modified method for men.
So the villagers of Deolgaon Mali got sanitary toilets without compromising their traditional habits. This tells us a story that if Govt. officials and villagers help and cooperate with each other in their problems, innovative solutions can be brought up.