Surya, the light of Maranti

It's a difficult trek to reach Maranti, a village in Parigi Moutong, Central Sulawesi. Bushes are everywhere and when rain falls, there is no vehicle that can safely journey there as it would quickly be trapped in mud.

Previously Maranti had a bad record in sanitation. At that time, bad smells were everywhere around the village because of the open defecation habit. The number of children and toddlers suffering from diarrhea and cholera also increased because of bad sanitation.

Surya, a 42-year-old woman didn't keep quiet about this condition. When Wahana Visi Indonesia (WVI) in Parigi Moutong started to assist her village in 2013, she realised that she should do something. As a mother, she didn't want any of her children and other children of Maranti suffering from diarrhea anymore. Together with the Village Chief and village secretary, they started to take action to remove the open defecation habit from Maranti.

They believed that every household should have their own toilet.

However, Surya's struggle to initiate toilet construction in her village was not easy. Some villagers rejected her plan because they didn't have enough money to build a toilet since most of villagers work as farmers or plantation workers.

"One woman used to get mad at me because she didn't have any money left to build the toilet," said Surya. "At first, I was sad because they rejected me, but I have become accustomed to rejection. My only concern is that every villager in Maranti could have their own toilet."

Surya used a unique way to approach villagers. Every morning before carrying out her duty as a teacher at the Early Childhood Care and Development centre, she visited her neighbor's homes who didn't have toilets. If there was no toilet there, she would come back in the following days until the toilet was built.

"My neighbors were angry with me because I couldn't stop talking about a building toilet. But, everything is worth the effort because finally, they build one," Surya shared her struggle.

WVI also taught Surya and her team to build alternative toilets so villagers didn't need to spend much money. Even the chief of village initiated Arisan Jamban where the villagers met once a month and contributed a small amount of money for those who didn't have a toilet. With Arisan Jamban, now every house has a toilet without a financial burden.

Her effort of more than a year finally succeeded.

On May 21, 2015 Maranti was declared as an Open Defecation Free village and legitimized by Vice Regent of Parigi Moutong, H. Badrun Nggai. 192 households currently have their own toilets. It was the amazing result of a woman who never stopped fighting for her village.

"I'm really happy because today every household has their own toilet. Although we don't have a luxury toilet like others, at least there are no more children died from diarrhea," Surya commented affectionately.

 *Written by Rena Tanjung, Field Communications officer, World Vision Indonesia