Interview with beneficiary: a story of change

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Women struggled with their menstrual health after cyclone Amphan

Mukta Begum is a 25 years old housewife, who lives with 6 family members at the edge of the Payra river in Amtali municipality, Bangladesh. They used to use an unimproved toilet, covered with half cloth and a tin shed around the toilet, open from the top and the bottom, and not useable during the rainy season. Mukta recalls that she used to hold any urge at night to use the toilet during the rainy reason as it was so dirty. During monsoon, the toilet would leak waste around, which would flow to the river water.

Mukta Begum’s husband is a daily labour. As the only earning member of the house, he cannot afford to improve the condition. When cyclone Amphan hit in May 2020, everything, including their house, outdoor kitchen, toilet, livestock, was washed away while they were away in a cyclone shelter. For several days after the cyclone, their sanitation facility was a hole, surrounded with bamboo, dug in the backyard of their house. The female members felt insecure to use this open hole as there was no privacy and adequate setting. It was more difficult for menstruating females in the house because they could not wash and dry cloths privately, afford sanitary pads and could not speak about it openly. They were losing their dignity.

To assess the impact of the cyclone, local government officials surveyed all 5.900 households in Amtali municipality. The assessment included information on full and partial availability of drinking water, electricity, damage on toilet facilities, houses and livestock. The results show that 350 households had partial damage, but Mukta’s family is one of the 300 households who lost everything during the cyclone. DORP, one of the implementing partners of the WAI sub-programme, submitted a petition jointly with a CSO group to ask the officials to provide water and sanitation services immediately to the poorest families.

As a result, the Mayor provided 2.000 BDT (20 EUR) to 200 families, including Mukta, who also benefited from the local government’s support. As DORP has been doing behavioral change activities, such as community WASH meetings, household visits and giving hygiene sessions to these families, it changed the perception of Mukta’ family towards WASH issues since the programme started. Therefore, with the motivation from the programme and support from the government, Mukta’s family reconstructed an improved toilet including five covered rings, brick/cement walls ensuring privacy, with availability of water and soap in the toilet. It improved their menstrual hygiene practices and increased their wellbeing. Mukta says that she and the other female members in the family are happy using this new clean toilet. She also washed her hands frequently with soap. They knew they had a problem, but they did not know where to go. The programme and DORP helped them raise their demand to the government, which helped a lot to their family (also in a quote above).

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