Generations band together for better sanitation in Bhutan

Aum Mindu standing in front of her sturdy new outdoor toilet

Aum Mindu and her granddaughter now have a sturdy and private pour flush toilet. (photo: Khandu Sonam, Health Assistant, Thinleygang PHC / SNV)

When her fellow villagers began planning new toilets following a community sanitation workshop, 75-year-old Aum Mindu despaired she and her teenage granddaughter would miss out.

The Community Development for Health workshop in the Toep gewog sub-district spurred households to install new pour flush toilets – a cistern-type toilet where the user flushes waste, not by pulling a handle, but by hand-pouring water.

For Aum Mindu and her 15-year-old granddaughter, who live in Lunjam village, it seemed beyond reach. Aum Mindu had been unwell, and financial resources scarce since her son in-law died, forcing her granddaughter out of school and into work.

At her wit's end, she said: “I would love to have a pour flush toilet, but I have no hope and no dream with the situation I am in.” The gewog supported Aum Mindu with materials for a pour flush toilet, but she still had to find the money for construction.

She talked to her granddaughter; the household’s enterprising breadwinner saved Bhutan Ngultrum (Nu.) 500, around AUD 10, of her daily wage until they had the Nu. 9,000, approximately AUD 180, needed for installation.

Today, the two women have a pour flush toilet. Teary eyed, Aum Mindu said: “My hope and dreams came true because of my hardworking granddaughter.”

Khandu Sonam, a health assistant, said: “With dedication and a positive attitude, Aum Mindu and her granddaughter’s experience showed that nothing is impossible.”

Through the Government of Bhutan's Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (RSAHP), Water for Women partner SNV Netherlands Development Organisation is working to improve hygiene and sanitation practices and facilities across the country.

Water for Women partners with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation for the Beyond the Finish Line project in Bhutan, which aims to provide equitable, universal access to safely managed sanitation and hygiene for more than 275,000 people in urban and rural areas by December 2022.

Water for Women is the Australian government's flagship WASH program and is being delivered as part of Australia's aid program over five years, from 2018 to 2022. Through Water for Women, Australia is investing AUD118.9m to deliver 33 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects and research initiatives, which aim to directly benefit 2.9 million people in 15 countries across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific.


This story was originally published as "Aum Mindu's pour flush toilet," as part of an SNV in Bhutan SSH4A blog series by local government, health care, and community partners.


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