Before United Purpose came to his village, Benedict never stopped to consider the detrimental impact that going to the toilet in the open had on his community.
Rampant diseases such as cholera left many sick and some – particularly young children – dead. Yet people continued to defecate from a crossbar on a hill into the river below, the village’s only water source. The crossbar was high above the ground and constituted of a large hole. Once, a five-year-old boy fell through the hole and was swept away by the river, only escaping with his life due to the fortunate placement of some fishermen.
Following a ‘triggering’ by United Purpose, Benedict was identified as the perfect candidate to lead on changing harmful practices in his community. He quickly embarked on his new role, convincing others to stop defecating in the open. Before long, his village became the first ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF) location in the area of Adadama.
But Benedict did not stop there. He travelled to all other communities in Adadama and met with their chiefs, to spread word about the benefits in becoming ODF and warn them that open defection kills many more community members than communal violence.
He was also determined to ensure his efforts could be sustained without him, and the communities wouldn’t slip back into their old practices. This led him to establish women’s forums in every community to ensure monitoring as well as empower local women to participate in decision-making.
Today, the spot where Benedict’s village used to defecate in the open remains in the community’s hands. But instead of marking a spot of disease and lack of hygiene, a house has been built on it and donated to a family in need.
This activity took place as part of United Purpose’s Rural Sanitation & Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria (RUSHPIN), funded by the United Nation’s Global Sanitation Fund — the sanitation and hygiene funding body of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
Image credits: Jason Florio/United Purpose