Abie Mohamed is a renowned local trader who deals in raw agricultural products like banana and plantain between Madina and the bigger cities like Kenema and Freetown. Abie describes Madina as an agriculturally rich village that provides many opportunities for businesswomen who trade mostly in agricultural products. With more than 130 houses, Abie states that many homes have a garden that contain the banana and plantain that she has been trading in all her life.
However, before the partnership with OneVillage Partners, Madina had very limited access to sanitary facilities and many people resorted to openly defecating among their banana trees. Even though Madina had fulfilled Abie’s business career, she was saddened and disgraced when she would have to work among human feces to access the goods she would then sell to the public. Abie began to feel uncomfortable selling products that had been so contaminated. A new dawn in the era of healthy environment began when the community was asked to prioritize their needs and ranked sanitation and hygiene as their top priority, designing a latrine project as the solution to their open defecation problems.
Interested in the education surrounding sanitation, Abie began to collect pieces of information and learning she harnessed from the OneVillage Partners training sessions and shared this information at home with her children and family members. At some points, she extended this education to the other people with whom she would share a latrine (once construction was complete). Abie reinforced the teaching by being an example in digging her own latrine pit and contributing to project work. She also started taking conscious steps to avoid open defecation in her home environment. At this point some neighbors started calling her names like “Pu Mui,” meaning someone with a strange culture. The kids faced the challenge of avoiding to defecate openly because that was the culture they had grown up in. Mamie continued educating, setting examples and also admonishing neighbors, stating that she would not buy bananas from a garden that contained feces. Abie’s health sanctions began to result in many people deviating from using the banana or plantain gardens to defecate and a new culture of using latrines began.
During a feedback session on diarrhea rates in the community both before and after the construction of the latrines, the community of Madina saw how they consciously followed every education they had heard from OneVillage Partners and the monitoring of the volunteers and Sanitary Officers. Abie takes a tour round her community every week and now realizes that all of the places that had been used before as open defecation sites are now clean and healthy. Abie was happy not just for her business, but also for the entire health of her community. No longer would they have to endure the health risks posed by working in open defecation sites.
Abie stated, “I feel proud that the dignity, freedom and protection to work has been restored and kids at our houses are now safer and protected from diarrhea related sicknesses.” This sense of decency and pride felt by Abie is shared among many community members who are taking steps to reaffirm the understanding that improved sanitation, hygiene practice, and behavior is an effective cure for diarrhea.
Author: Musa Gangha, Senior Community Action Coordinator