Akali Rabidas from Chengtor (West Bengal, India) could not believe herself when she was told that she would be able to earn 47 per cent of her family’s income. This was natural given the fact that she was not that educated and had hardly heard of the maxim ‘A rupee saved is a rupee earned.’

Moreover, with her children being married off and her husband Ashok being a daily laborer, she could hardly afford two square meals a day. The problems did not end there. Not having a latrine at their house, they were forced to defecate in the open. This gave rise to various stomach ailments and consequently, the family had to shell out Rs 700 per month towards doctor’s fees and medicines.

Rs 700 a month may not sound much to city dwellers but to a rural family that survives on Rs 1500 per month on earnings, the figure works out to about 47 per cent of the total earnings. Akali was, therefore, quite excited when the arithmetic was done in front of her. “When I was told that I could save that much, it sounded too good to be true,” she reminisced.

The solution, as ERDS explained to her, lay in constructing a low-cost latrine at their house. Akali heeded the advice and a latrine was built at their house. Once the family started using the latrine, they no longer had to go out for defecation. When open defecation stopped, they no longer had to visit a doctor or a medicine shop, thereby saving Rs 700 or 47 per cent of their family income.

Today, Akali advocates for ending open defecation in her village. “I tell people around me that they should build a latrine at their house and end open defecation so that they can save money for their family,” she added.