Dhan's Story

‘When I heard that the neighbouring village had been declared as a No Open Defecation (NOD) area, I had a belief that it could also be done in Pragatinagar. I requested Plan and its partner organisation show the way towards achieving No Open Defecation.’

Dhan Kumari BK lives in Pragatinagar village in the Banke district of Nepal. There are 35 families living in the village, the majority of them belonging to so-called Dalit (untouchable) groups. As well as the shame and embarrassment of   defecating in the open, Dhan Kumari felt anger and disappointment when people from the upper caste defecated openly but did not tolerate others doing the same.

She still remembers, ‘It was disgusting to walk around the village and work in the fields because of the human faeces around the fields and on the paths. It was not safe for us to go to defecate in the open during night due to fear of snakes or other wild animals. There was also fear among the girls and women of getting watched during their nature’s calls.’

Upon her request, staff from Plan visited Pragatinagar and enquired about hygiene, sanitation and health practices, and then assisted Dhan Kumari to form the Pragatinagar Water and Sanitation Users’ Committee. At first, Dhan Kumari thought it might be difficult to convince villagers to stop defecating in open areas, but she and the committee led the process and prepared an action plan. The date of their NOD declaration was fixed for the next month.

The momentum for building and using the toilets increased in the village. The people became united for this common cause and worked collectively to achieve the set target. There was a healthy competition among the people to build the toilets in such a short time – and they succeeded, building 35 toilets in just 25 days.

Finally the day of the ceremony arrived. It was 31 January 2009. The village was colourfully decorated and people were in a festive mood. Plan officials, government and village development committee officials, Plan’s Nepalese NGO partner, people from neighboring villages, the media and community organisations were all invited. The villagers felt proud of their achievement and everyone wanted to show their toilet to the guests. A cultural program was organised to express their happiness and entertain the people. Amidst this, Dhan Kumari formally proclaimed Pragatinagar as No Open Defecation village. The people pledged to maintain and continue this practice by abiding with the code of conduct prepared by them. ‘In the past, children used to suffer from diarrheal diseases, especially in rainy season,’ said Dhan Kumari. ‘But to tell the truth, after our defecation-free declaration, we have not heard of any children suffering.’