Freedom for HER
Freedom for HER is an anecdote about the plight of a group of women. They had to face hardship due to lack of toilets and open defecation.
This was a visit to a women’s group in the Govandi Slums of Mumbai during the last Independence Day. During that visit, I learned how freedom can mean so many different things to different people.
The conversation with the lady went as follows:
Me: Do you have any programs in your bastion on 15 August?
She: Why? What is on 15 August?
Me: Oh! That was the day India got freedom from the British.
She: (laughs) Didi, I don’t understand what you are saying. For me, freedom was the day I shifted to a house with a Toilet built within it. That is the day I would like to celebrate the day of my freedom.
Me: What do you mean?
She: See, before I got a Toilet in the house, we had to go out in the open or in shrubs to relieve ourselves. Both had their problems.
Me: Hmm. Women always have additional problems in every difficult situation.
She: That is right. So, what and when we ate was dependent upon how easy it would be to find a place to relieve ourselves when we needed to. (Giggles)
Me: Right! I have often seen this while travelling by trains, and we laugh at the scene. Now that you mention it I can see what a serious problem that is. Risking your life for something as simple as going to the toilet! And we find it irritating even if at home someone knocks on our toilet door when we are inside.
She: Arre Didi. That is nothing. The real problem was eating dinner. Going out alone at night is not safe at all in areas we have lived in. So, at night we would eat very little and not drink water at all. All our celebrations and get together also had to be in the daytime to avoid going out to relieve ourselves at night.
Me: ……….(With wide-open eyes) Hey Bhagwan! So, a not having a toilet can actually impact your social life in a big way!
She: Bilkul. Not only that, even our food had to be bland so that we would not have an upset stomach. No spices, or green chillies in food. If by chance we had an upset stomach, “phir to kahar hi toot gaya samjho”
Continued to Stare at her
She: And during rains, there was the additional burden of holding an umbrella while sitting on the road, with a “paani ka lota” (Smiles at the thought)
She: So, the day I got a house with a toilet, I only looked at the toilet and agreed to shift. Nothing else mattered. I just told my husband, “Now I have the freedom to eat as much as I want and whenever I want.”
Just try and visualise all the scenarios mentioned by the lady in the conversation above and you will also pray that all women get a toilet in their homes. They deserve at least this freedom in their life.
I will leave you with a question: Why does this simple freedom remain just a dream for so many like the lady above, in spite of the fact there are simple solutions available across the world?