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Loyabi’s Story: Where There is a Will, There is a Way

Santanu Lahiri's picture

The author captured the story of Loyabi, in Chhaor Union Parishad. This is her story of how she provided her family with access to better Mariam, Loyabi's daughter, studies in Grade IXsanitation and improved their futures.

“I will teach my children how to read and write regardless of my difficulties in doing so.”

My name is Loyabi and I come from a very poor family of Mahadanga village in Chhaor Union Parishad. I was married to Abul Hassan, a man from my own village, at the age of 15. For several years our poverty did not prevent us from being happy. We were blessed with two daughters and two sons. However, when my husband was diagnosed with gallstones, I found I had to raise Taka 50,000/- ($630) for his operation.

We had no land of our own and lived on common land. I was able to collect some money by asking for assistance in different villages. I worked as a mid-wife for humans as well as cattle, bathed dead bodies before their burial and somehow put together the required amount of money to get my husband’s operation done.

Hygiene and modesty at stake: The lack of any kind of toilet facility within the house was proving very vexing for us, especially my elder daughter Mariam who studies in Class IX. She would get very embarrassed at having to go into the fields or behind bushes to answer nature’s call. There is always a fear of someone being able to see you.

With both hygiene and modesty at stake, she would often wish she did not need to go to the toilet after returning from school. Mariam keenly desired that we had our own private sanitary facility within the house. She spoke in glowing terms of the cleanliness of her school’s toilet where she claimed you could even dine!

One day Mariam returned from school — Mahadanga Uchcho Vidyalaya — and informed me excitedly that a sanitation committee has been organized in the village to help the ultra-poor and the impoverished to build hygienic water systems like protected hand pumps and sanitary toilets in their homes. This was part of initiative of Union Parishad with support from an NGO.

Fortune favors the brave: Upon enquiry I found that the committee’s chairman is Mr. Mohammad Kausar. I met him to request that a hygienic toilet be installed in my home. He told me that I would need to deposit Taka 692 ($9) with the Union Parishad after which I would be sanctioned a sanitary system in the house. Accordingly, I filed a petition and deposited the requisite money which I had saved from my earnings from deliveries.

There were many job’s comforters who assured me that my money would be swindled and that nothing would come of my efforts. However, work on the sanitary system began after 10 days with workers first digging the pit and other materials arriving at my house. The construction of a simple latrine was completed in four days. However, the children felt that it would be better if it was a ceramic squatting pan instead of plastic pan. It was a serious concern as to where I would be able to find that much money.

As luck would have it, I was called for a delivery that very day. After the delivery, the family wanted to give me an expensive saree. I requested that they give me money instead. They gave me Taka 500/- ($6.30) cheerfully. I added Taka 100/- ($1.26) to that and brought home a ceramic squatting pan. I asked the workers to utilize the remaining rubble and concrete to make the slab for the pan. They did so happily after getting the sanction for it from the contractor Janab Moti-ur-Rahman.

Ceremic pan which is regularly cleaned and well maintained by Loyabi and her family members.All’s well that ends well: Now, my daughter Mariam cleans the toilet regularly and keeps it sparkling. The new toilet in my house has become the talking point of my neighbors who enviously wish they too had a similar facility. Some of them have taken steps to install a sanitary system in their households too.

I could not study due to the poverty of my family. This lack of training often poses challenges for me during complications in deliveries. I am unable to get any kind of training to make my midwifery more scientific and safer. I am determined that my children be properly educated, no matter what the difficulties.

Author’s Note: This might have been a small step, but it was a step in the right direction in ensuring a hygienic latrine for every household in Bangladesh, reinforcing the principle of peer learning. The World Bank Water and Sanitation Program with other partners support an initiative led by Union Parishads and launched by the Local Government Division (LGD) of Government of Bangladesh (GoB), called the Horizontal Learning Program. It aims at inspiring everyone to share their good practices with others to build development. In Loyabi's case, one lady’s success inspired her peers to install hygienic sanitary systems in their households. It is a classic case of people adding their own resources to those of projects which can ensure the sustainability of these projects in the long run.

Comments

Submitted by Lahiri on

Thanks to Md. Akramul Haque, CEO of DASCOH; Mr. Habib-ur-Rahman, member Union Parishad, Chhaor; Mr. Mothalesar Rahman, DASCOH; and Mirva Tuulia Moilanen of WSP for their support in preparing this story - Santanu Lahiri

Submitted by Aliza on

Very nice story. Brings home the importance of the work being done, one small step at a time. Thanks for doing this!

Dear Santanu,

This is sure an inspring story once more and a great read to start off the day.

In your note at the end of the story, you add that this may be a small step and although you go on to explain why it isn't and I find your analysis great.

This is the story of a woman who doesn't want to be limited by her own circumstances, a woman who wants to be empowered, who wants her children empowered and of course who wants the best for her family.

Last year, we all celebrated World Toilet Day and we would do so again this year. But it is stories like this which will make those celebrations all the more meaningful.

Cheers, Marie from Brussels :)

Submitted by Lahiri on

Dear Marie,

Thanks for your appreciation for the story. Your suggestion to include such a story for the World Toilet Day is quite interesting. We may try to do that in up-coming Sanitation Month (October month in Bangladesh) and also on 19 November on World Toilet Day.

The Loyabi’s Story is from the project “Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Vulnerable Barind Tract Communities in Naogaon Districts of Bangladesh implemented by DASCOH through Union Parishad and supported by Swiss Red Cross to contribute to improved health and wellbeing of the people in the project area by increasing their access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene promotion. Many thanks to Mr. Shantanu Lahiri for capturing the story and disseminating through this popular blog maintain by the South Asia Region of the World Bank group.

Submitted by Monoj Hazarika on

I wish soon in many parts of the south east Asia there will be a revolutionary provision for sanitation and hygiene and usher an era of availability of minimum such facility to the poor.

I read this and felt sad. Why does she need to pay when access to sanitation is a human right. When the NGO got funding why not give it free. Just asking.

Please help me track this woman down. We will try to help her fund a midwifery skills course.

And please google Lovedesh and Amcariza Foundation. New voices in poverty alleviation for 'Third World'. Experts have been at it for decades now but I cannot see success. Just heavily bureaucratic organisation posturing and talking and objectifying poor folk as victims. In her picture she looks so sad. Why? And hopefully she was paid for this case study? It is time to change the narrative.

Finally World Bank SE Asia. Do get in touch with me? If you want. We need to work together? You need to hear what my r&d in Bangladesh taught us.

Yasmin C.

Founder of Lovedesh & Amcariza Foundation.

Submitted by Lahiri on

Hi Yasmin,

You raise a good point. If something is a ‘human right’ does that mean it should be free? Ultimately, someone has to pay and the question is ‘who is best placed to pay’ for an item like a personal latrine?

I am personally of the opinion that sharing the expertise of the poor (so that we can learn from their experience) is already changing the narrative ... as it does not objectify what they lack and what they need from us. This sharing of local expertise enables local proponents to learn from each to replicate and inform policy change, which is something that is already being supported in Bangladesh through the Horizontal Learning Program (see www.horizontallearning.net). Please take a look and feel free to contact me or any of the various partners to learn more about it.

Submitted by Aarthi Sriram on

Very inspiring story. It just proves the fact that any system can be made better if there is willpower, courage and determination to achieve a change. Thanks for sharing this story !

Submitted by Christopher Jua... on

Neat blog Santanu!

It is a simple story, and one that is hopefully being repeated in hundreds of thousands of villages around the world.

It is good to remind ourselves of this image of disadvantaged folks who are doing their best and making sacrifices for a better future!

Good Job!

Submitted by Anowarul Haq on

This is how Bangladesh is moving. This explains how Bangladesh is achieving scores in "human development index". Excitingly women are playing the leading role and Loyabi's story is confirming how women are breaking barriers. Thanks to Akram Bhai, Habib Bhai, Mothalesar Bhai, Santanu Da and Mirva for sharing the very inspiring story. Anowarul Haq, Director - Extreme Rural Poverty Program, CARE Bangladesh

Submitted by Lahiri on

Dear All,

Thank you for your appreciation. I will try to convey your attention and appreciation to Loyabi and her family. Thanks again to Akramul Haque, Habib-ur-Rahman, Mothalesar Rahman, Mirva Tuulia Moilanen, Naomi Ahmad, Mark Ellery and others for their support to me while blogging this story.

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