“To my horror, I saw feces living along the village pathway and the women told me how they have to defecate in the open as there were no proper sanitary or toilet facilities. For modesty, the women saved banners to be used as covers,” he said.That eye-opening trip made James Raj realise that awareness alone was not sufficient unless infrastructure support was also provided. The incident was discussed with RYTHM Foundation Chairperson Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran who immediately agreed to the proposal of building a sanitary facility in the village. Months later (the construction was delayed due to Covid-19), the integrated sanitary complex is now complete. It was inaugurated by Mr. Anil Kumar Singh, the panchayat head in the presence of other state administrators at Marchi village on August 11, 2020. “About 70 percent of the disease burden is due to open defecation which becomes a breeding ground for flies and mosquitoes, which in turn, circulate in the area getting into the food and water, leading to contamination and diseases. It is an invitation for disease to start and spread. With this sanitary complex, we hope the morbidity will be reduced,” he said in his speech. He acknowledged that the longstanding need of the village women has been met and is thankful for the support of RYTHM Foundation and its partner Parinaama Foundation. “The officials from RYTHM Foundation met with women in our panchayat and after learning of the issues, they took it up to their management. And now, after going through a due process of consultation, we have arrived here. We are happy that this has been a fruitful collaboration and meets the needs of our poor womenfolk in our panchayat,” he said. He added that this type of integrated sanitary complex will be a standard for the state of Bihar. The sanitary complex consists of six baths, six toilets and separate washing area and water storage facilities. It is open to both men and women. Meanwhile, Parinaama Development Foundation Dr Madhavi Panda said they are deeply committed to inculcate a community-led behavior change in sanitation and hygiene practices in rural areas. READ: RYTHM Foundation Promotes Menstrual Health Awareness In Rural India In Partnership With Parinaama “The complete sanitation facility prevents open defecation, enables enhanced health outcomes and prevents diseases. This initiative is possible only through the support of RYTHM Foundation and its chairperson Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran,” she said.
It was a sunny morning in February 2019 and RYTHM Foundation’s programme manager K. James Raj was sweating profusely as he sat listening to Marchi village women giving feedback about the health programmes being implemented in the village. “The health programme was funded by RYTHM Foundation and carried out by our partner Parinaama Development Foundation, and was aimed at creating awareness about general health, importance of nutrition and reducing infant morbidity. As the women gathered around, I asked one of them if she had made any changes after attending the programme. Her answer surprised me,” said James Raj. “She said the programme had created the awareness, but it did not change their situation. I was puzzled, so she and several other women took me for a short tour of the village,” he said.