Lack of adequate sanitation has forced women to defecate in the open in Pakistan, leaving them vulnerable to harassment, humiliation and even rape. In addition, the health risks of open defecation include diseases like cholera and the lack of private, safe and proper facilities at schools stop girls from getting an education.
Parveen Bibi is a mother of 6 living in Basti Chhohan in District Bahawalpur. Like others in her community, Parveen had been defecating in the open due to a lack of awareness about the positive effects of toilets.
Lack of toilets dangerous for girls
“I used to wake up during the early hours of the morning to defecate in fields while keeping a vigilant eye on surroundings for any predators,” says Parveen.
I used to wake up during the early hours of the morning to defecate in fields while keeping a vigilant eye on surroundings for any predators
Rumours of women and girls suffering abuse and harassment within her community have been a cause of concern for Parveen. However, her community has been introduced to the importance of improved sanitation through a project implemented by Plan International Pakistan and partner organisation National Rural Support Program.
“I pondered constructing a latrine. With a meagre income it was impossible. But I could not compromise the dignity and security of my daughters,” says Parveen.
Supporting families to build toilets
Despite her family only making 300-400 Pakistani Rupees (€2.50-€3.50) per day, she decided to construct a basic toilet with technical assistance provided by the project. The project adopts a total sanitation approach and also increases access to low-cost sanitation products.
Unfortunately, Parveen’s basic latrine became damaged through regular use and torrential rain. However, she has been able to make improvements thanks to a nearby sanitation shop established by the project. The sanitation shops have allowed community members to purchase sanitation products, paying in small monthly instalments.
Parveen has improved the standard of her toilet and has even had a surrounding wall built to improve privacy and safety. ”I appreciate the role of the project in not only improving our lives but restoring our respect and dignity,” she said.