The Financial Express

A story of empowerment thru sustainable sanitation during Covid-19 pandemic

| Updated: January 26, 2021 20:14:04

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A story of empowerment thru sustainable sanitation during Covid-19 pandemic

Water.org Bangladesh, a leading international organization, has so far touched the lives of more than 2.8 million people in Bangladesh by enabling access to water and sanitation.

Globally, Water.org operates in 13 countries, wherein its programmes have reached around 32 million people. In Bangladesh, one of these persons is Hosne Ara Begum (39) who hails from Guriarup village in Brahmanbaria district.

Hosne Ara and her husband Ibrahim Mia run a local grocery store and earn BDT 15,000 per month. Her husband happens to be differently-abled.

The relationship between Hosne Ara and Water.org partner BURO Bangladesh is seven-year-long and one based on mutual trust. She has availed as many as eight microfinance loans from BURO earlier.

BURO is one of Water.org's long-standing partners, for over 5 years now. In fact, Water.org hand-held BURO in its early days as it experimented with different modalities of a WASH lending program. Currently, BURO contributes significantly to Water.org portfolio of loans.

Over the years, Water.org has conducted intensive training-of-trainer (ToT) programs for BURO's loan officers. Md. Foyez Ullah, a BURO loan officer, was a highly energetic recipient of Water.org training.

Mr Foyez Ullah used the learning from Water.org training to conduct multiple sessions on health and hygiene during monthly group meetings. It was during these sessions that Hosne Ara was able to grasp the importance of having an improved sanitary latrine in her house.

However, they were already financially struggling with the loss incurred during the lockdown period of COVID-19. Consequently, she was sceptical about investing in something she perceived as a luxury at that time.

Eventually, she and her husband overcame their hesitation and decided to invest in an improved latrine. There were pressing concerns in her family that made the decision easier.

At the same time, Hosne Ara's daughter was pregnant. It was important to her and her husband that during their daughter's visit to their house, she would have access to hygienic sanitation.

Hosne Ara also had a personal story to share with regard to her own pregnancy. "My first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage as I tripped over and fell while going to the latrine late at night. The latrine was far from our house. I never want my daughter to go through the same physical and emotional pain I had to endure."

Hosne Ara proceeded to take out a new Water Credit loan of BDT 17,000. The loan was used to finance the construction of a safe private pit latrine.

Hosne Ara said she is very grateful to the loan officer of BURO who helped her and her husband not only with the installation, but also with class-room training on health, hygiene, and maintenance.

Interestingly, most of the Guriarup households have private improved latrines. As a result, Hosne Ara and her family had to face social scorn on certain occasions due to their toilet being unhygienic and dilapidated. After installing the new latrine, Hosne Ara's relatives and neighbours have a new-found respect for her and her family.

The improved latrine is also a blessing for her differently-abled husband who feels safer using the new latrine close to their house.

Hosne Ara also reports that her son no longer misses on studies as he does not fall sick as often as before, and last but not least, their medical expenses have reduced drastically.

"I just wish we understood the necessity of an improved sanitary latrine when my in-laws were alive, who faced considerable difficulties at night while going to use the toilet," said Hosne Ara.

Currently, Hosne Ara strives to generate awareness in her community and motivate other women to set up private latrines in their households. She considers it an urgent necessity, especially in light of COVID-19.

She appreciates the initiatives of Water.org for providing small affordable loans for improved water supply and sanitation.

Khandaker Shaoli Hassan, Program Officer, Water.org, Bangladesh;

Somashree Chattapadhya, Program Officer, Water.org, Bangladesh

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