September 1 2016

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Community toilets makes life safer, cleaner, and healthier in rural India

For those of us living in developed and urbanized areas, it’s easy to take many things for granted: running water, electricity, paved roads, public safety. But for millions of people around the world, these amenities are few and far between. And for these people, a few simple changes can lead to lasting improvements in safety, health, and quality of life.

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Villagers in front of public toilets built by Karuna-Shechen.

One such change is the installation of public toilets. Across the world, one billion individuals lack access to bathroom facilities—and more than half of those people live in India. This isn’t just a matter of comfort or privacy: for villagers in rural communities, the lack of purpose-built, enclosed toilets means safety hazards, environmental pollution, and a risk of disease.


Since 2014, Karuna-Shechen has been working to make simple but lasting changes by installing public toilets in Indian villages we support. And our work didn’t stop there: we’ve been working alongside local citizens to spread awareness about the health issues that result from a lack of dedicated toilet facilities.

Through Nukkad Natak (a type of street theatre popular in India for generations), we’ve helped educate people on water pollution and waste-borne diseases—problems that will be reduced each time a new villager begins using the community toilets, which contain and treat waste sustainably through rainwater harvesting systems.

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Public Toilets with rainwater harvesting systems on the Roof.

The results of the Nukkad Natak programs have been exciting to witness. More and more locals from the villages we have equipped are making use of the community toilets, and we’ve continued to build in a number of new locations.

As with all our community projects, we involve villagers to ensure their sustainability. In the village of Banahi, Lalti Devi, a vigilant mother, is one of the many women who helps encourage her fellow villagers to make use of the new facilities we installed. She and several others share the task of keeping the women’s toilets clean and comfortable.

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Lalti Devi

Previously, my daughters and I had to relieve ourselves outside at night, and it was very unsafe for us as females,” Lalti explains. “We could also face the danger of being bitten by snakes, scorpions, and poisonous insects.”

Thanks to the community toilets, Lalti and her daughters no longer have to contend with these risks. “The new toilets are safe and convenient,” Lalti reports.

Changes are taking root in villages like Banahi—changes that may seem small, but will make a significant impact in the lives of Lalti, her daughters, and their neighbors. From a greater sense of personal security to a cleaner, healthier environment, the differences are concrete and crucial.