MASEMBE TAMBWE in Bhopal
Good fortune couldn’t have come better to Anita Narre, the Indian now famed bride who ran away from her husband after finding that he didn’t have a toilet, after a local NGO slapped her with 4,000 US Dollars.
Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement Founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak travelled 500kms from Bhopal to present Anita the 4000 US Dollars cheque for what we termed as a ‘courageous yet very peculiar move’.
“This is the first time I have heard of an Indian woman leaving her husband because he didn’t have a toilet in the premises of his house. This move is usually not only an insult to her in laws but also to her parents but because of her cause, we have decided to award her,” he said.
Dr Pathak told journalists yesterday that he first learnt of the story, he was visibly intrigued by it and promised himself that he would give her the recognition she deserves for the bold step she took.
The Local Government Village Executive Officer, Ms Lalita Narre said that when she learnt that Anita had left her husband because of the lack of toilet facilities, she supported her out rightly.
She revealed that thanks to the bold move of Anita, in a space of two weeks, 95 out of 150 households that previously didn’t have toilet have now constructed toilets and the rest are underway.
“I am very proud of her and forever grateful to her because for years we have tried spreading awareness to the women on the importance of having toilets within the home but our efforts have always landed on empty ears,” she said.
Anita Narre explained that it took her only two days after moving in with her husband to reach the decision that unless her husband built a toilet, she would go back to her parents and not return until there was one.
She narrated that on her first day we had to walk 2km away from her house to go and ease herself and vowed that she wouldn’t undergo that torture everyday unless something was done.
“I grew up in an environment that had toilets within the premises of the homestead. I confided with my husband about my concerns and when I saw nothing was being done about it, I took matters into my own hand,” she said.
Her husband, Shevram said that he understood how she felt but at that time he wasn’t in the financial position to construct one but things changed when she left forcing him to seek assistance from the local government office and in eight days, one was constructed and the wife returned.
Ms Anita said that it was beyond her wildest dreams that her story would arouse so much media attention and she will be forever thankful to the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation for the token that they had awarded her.
“With this boost, I will now be able to construct a bathroom where my family and I can comfortably bathe from as well as give our house a facelift,” she said.
She said that it was her dream that a time would come where all women in India and other parts of the world have access to clean and hygienic toilet facilities and no longer have to walk long distances and at awkward hours to simply answer a call of nature.
A social worker stationed in Bhopal and a Sulabh employee, Ms Swati Khemaria said that Anita broke one of India’s biggest taboos, leaving your husband’s home and returning to your own unescorted and for something as mere as a toilet.
Ms Swati explained that in Indian tradition, once a woman is married, she belongs to her in laws and isn’t supposed to return to her parents irrespective to the conditions that she is facing at her in laws.
Open defecating is still one of the biggest challenges to sanitation in India and in many other parts of the world. It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that approximately 2.6 billion do not have toilet facilities in the world.