A woman’s advocacy: A toilet for every family
Winning recently as a village councilor, former World Vision volunteer Lerma Granadil, 40, aims to make her village a place where each household has a proper toilet, an advocacy that she learns from joining World Vision’s numerous health and nutrition activities.
“Most households here don’t have toilets. They do their ‘things’ on the shore,” Lerma explained, laughing and pointing at the nearby shoreline, which, at the time, was low tide. From afar were small fishing boats swaying left and right from the mild waves of the Ticao Strait, where Manta Ray is said to be in abundance.
The coastal community where Lerma lives has more than 800 households, making it the fourth-largest population among the 63 villages in the municipality of Bulan, Sorsogon. Around 10% of the total households in the village have no toilets.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 4.5 billion live without a safe toilet and 892 million people still practice open defecation.
To raise the public’s awareness on sanitation, World Toilet Day is held every November 19 to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.
The squalid shores in Lerma’s neighborhood forced her to do something. “I’ve been advocating for proper hygiene even before I became a councilor. Having a proper toilet for each household is not a priority in the past. The practice here is that children grew up with the beachfront as their toilet and at the same time bathing area,” she shared.
Coming from a family of government workers — her mother was a health worker for 30 years and some of her relatives were once village officials — Lerma knows the importance of hygiene in one’s health. Her advocacy was further supported when she became part of World Vision.
Cost of a toilet
World Vision has been helping Lerma’s community in addressing hygiene through its Pinoy Nutrition Hub, where parents are not only taught how to prepare nutrient-rich food for their children but also proper hygiene.
Lerma was then a health worker when she became part of World Vision. “My first activity with World Vision was during a nutrition class where you taught health workers on nutrition and hygiene. I realized then that your advocacy is similar to mine,” she said.
Since then, Lerma became active in various World Vision health-related activities. She merely planned to start with 10 toilets to 10 households. “But by God’s grace, a former health worker who now works in Canada and through World Vision, I was able to provide nearly 60 toilets for 60 families.”
In Lerma’s small fishing village, a family has to spend Php5,000 to have a proper toilet. The amount includes materials and labor. “It is expensive. If you earn less than Php1000 a day and has 5 children, a decent toilet will not be your priority,” she explained.
The population’s health in Lerma’s village has been her concern even before she became a councilor. “Though I’ve been a health worker, I believe that I can do more if I’m part of the government. This way, I can strengthen or draft health ordinances.”
World Vision’s health intervention in the community also included forming TB Task Forces to promote the curability of TB, raising awareness and alerting the community on dengue, and understanding HIV and AIDS, among others. In all these programs, Lerma became an active volunteer.
“The village officials here are very thankful for World Vision for the health programs. You opened our eyes on things that we still need to do in our community,” Lerma said.
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