Mitu is planning on changing that for her family. The The 23-year-old lives with her husband, sister, and father in the Jalkuri Village neighborhood of Narayangani. Aside from her father, everyone works in the garment industry, which provides them with a modest living.
Because of water scarcity in Bangladesh, many homes do not have running water. Mitu and her sister would walk 20 minutes to the nearest public water source, exposing them to harassment from local bullies.
Mitu joined the Jalkuri Mohila Samitee women’s association in 2011. During talks at the association’s events, she learned how proper hygiene could protect her from diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, and jaundice.
In 2014, Mitu took out a microloan so her family could construct a tube well. In Bangladesh, tube wells are the primary method of getting fresh water. With access to clean water, the family’s medical costs have been reduced by 95%.
Mitu’s family also has a latrine on the property. But it is far from the house and is constructed on a fragile substructure of jute mats. Through the women’s association, she learned to make sure it is cleaned at least once a week and now keeps a pot of water with soap and detergent powder nearby for a proper wash up.
But keeping their toilet clean is just a small worry compared to the other trials and ordeals Mitu and her family have faced. In 2015, Mitu’s sister was sexually accosted by neighborhood thugs on her way to the latrine. Even though she was a victim of sexual harassment through no fault of her own, her fiancé called off their impending marriage.
Because of that incident, Mitu would like to take out another microloan to build a toilet with running water and a tub for bathing adjacent to her living room. As Mitu wisely noted, “While educating [people] on water, sanitation and hygiene…everyone must focus on the need for privacy, personal safety, and social dignity of the users. Particularly the women.”