Srilakshmi was born in one of the most backward areas of the village Peddireddipalem, in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
She was lucky to receive a scholarship under the scheduled tribe category and was completing her intermediate studies in the town of Narasaraopet. The scholarship met all the major expenses related to her education and her parents occasionally sent her some money for other expenses.
Yet, Srilakshmi was unwilling to come home during her vacations or visit for a couple of days, even though her village was only 8km away from the town. But how could she, when they had no toilet facilities?
The Hope For Better Sanitation
After having lived in a town with sanitation facilities for 4 years, Srilakshmi had vowed never to defecate in the open. During awareness camps at her college and her hostel, she learned about the hazards of open defecation and the benefits of proper sanitary practices. Having experienced the benefits herself and knowing that open defecation could lead to diseases, she decided not to return home till a toilet was constructed.
Challenges To Be Met
She did not expect her parents to understand her demand at first, but she was firm. Besides, she was well aware of her parent’s financial constraints. They were agricultural labourers, who would work seasonally and earn daily wages. The circumstances were such, that they barely had enough to feed the family.
Srilakshmi’s mother was at a loss, because she had no idea how to construct a toilet. The family did not have sufficient funds for the initial investment, let alone for the completion of the construction.
But good sense prevailed, when the Gram Panchayat called for a meeting to discuss the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Srilakshmi’s mother, Tirupatamma on hearing the benefits of using a toilet, decided to go ahead with the construction plans. With the subsidy that was provided under the scheme, Srilakshmi’s family finished constructing the toilet, and have been reaping the benefits ever since.
Saying Yes To Sanitation
“We would have constructed a toilet even if there was no financial assistance from the government, because our daughter was adamant about it. But, the scheme was offered to us at the right time and that was a big help,” Tirupatamma said.
Ushering Healthy Living
Srilakshmi can now come back home from college and use the family toilet, one of the many in her village. The residents of Peddireddipalem now use toilets and open defecation is not a problem anymore. They have the safety and privacy of proper toilets.
Footsteps To Progress
The village has been Open Defecation Free (ODF) since 2015, after 112 toilets were built under the SBM (G). With cooperation and open minds, the village was able to achieve this milestone to development. And like Srilakshmi, many more determined individuals can inspire change and a shift towards better hygiene and sanitation.