Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"No loo, no I do"

I find this fascinating. This is from The Washington Post's Emily Wax's column, "India brides telling grooms, 'No loo, no I do,'" reprinted in Sunday's Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

"In rural India, many young women are refusing to marry unless the suitor furnishes their future home with a bathroom, freeing them from the inconvenience and embarassment of using community toilets or squatting in fields.

About 665 million people in India--about half the population--lack access to latrines. But since a 'No Toilet, No Bride' campaign started about two years ago, 1.4 million toilets have been built in the northern state of Haryana, some with government funds, according to the state's health department.

Women's rights activists call the program a revolution as it spreads across India's vast and largely impoverished rural areas.

'I won't let my daughter near a boy who doesn't have a latrine,' said Usha Pagdi, who made sure that her daughter Vimlas Sasva, 18, finished high school and took courses in electronics at a technical school. [. . .]

'My father never even allowed me an education,' Pagdi said, stroking her daughter's hair in the half-built shelter near a lagoon strewn with trash. 'Every time I washed the floors, I thought about how I knew nothing. Now, young women have power. The men can't refuse us.'

Indian girls are traditionally seen as a financial liability because of the wedding dowries--often a life's savings--their fathers often shell out to the groom's family. But that is slowly changing as women marry later and grow more financially self-reliant. More rural girls are enrolled in school than ever before.

A societal preference for boys has become an unlikely source of power for Indian women. The abortion of female fetuses in favor of sons--an illegal but widespread practice--means there are more eligible bachelors than potential brides, allowing women and their parents to be more selective when arranging a match.

'I will have to work hard to afford a toilet. We won't get any bride if we don't have one now,' said Harpal Sirshwa, 22, who is hoping to marry soon. . . . 'I won't be offended when the woman I like asks for a toilet.'

Satellite television and the Internet are spreading images of rising prosperity and urban middle-class accoutrements to rural areas, such as spacious apartments--with bathrooms--and women in silk saris rushing off to the office. [ . . . ]

With economic freedom, women are increasing expecting more, and toilets are at the top of their list, they say. [Not having one] is 'humiliating, harrowing, and extrememly unhealthy.'

'The "No Toilet, No Bride" program is a bloodless coup,' said Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, a social organization and winner of this year's Stockholm Water Prize for developing inexpensive, eco-friendly toilets. 'When I started, it was a cultural taboo to even talk about toilets. Now it's changing.'"


Lara said...

Now that's a coup I can truly get behind. (Pun intended.)

Seriously though, that's amazing on so many different levels. I'm proud of my Indian sisters!

Stephanie said...

It's humbling, too. Isn't it? To think that they are fighting for things we take so much for granted.

I think it's interesting how they are reaping the consequences of aborting all those baby girls.