“I will dig my own toilet,”said the 70 year old Chief of Ha Lebele in Mohale’s Hoek who was digging a 2.9 meter by 170 cm and 2 meters deep hole for a pit latrine. She had started digging the hole which is on rocks with her daughter who has now gone to Bloemfontein in RSA thus leaving to complete the task by herself. The old woman stays with her grandchildren who are students and like most of the woman in her village she is a widow.
“ To dig this hole you need to have sense of knowledge,” said the charismatic and funny chief in the foreign toungue, English. However, she clearly stated that she will never let anyone use her toilet and promised to lock it because none was available to assist her while digging the hole.
The Chief said initially when the project was introduced to her she did not believe it would happen but when the material started coming ” I could see Ntate Lerotholi and Mme Nthabeleng (both Red Cross project officers) coming to the village often. I had to stand up and call public gatherings urging my people to start digging their pits for the latrines. Thank you Red Cross and God bless you,” she added.
“My task is not over, now I have to make sure everyone has dug his or her hole and for those who are not able to dig theirs due to illness or age, I will make sure the community helps them”, she concluded.
The digging of holes is part of Lesotho red Cross project operating in this village which will result in 26 toilets being constructed and 3 improved. However, each beneficiary is expected to dig a hole and collect stones for the construction of the pit latrine. This is to ensure that community are intergrated in construction and local resources are used for ownership of the project by the comunity so that they will take good care of the property.
It is a common practice for communities to neglect such properties especially if they were not fully involved as they reason that such properties belong to donors. It is therefore of paramount importance to mobilise the community before projects are initiated.This is done through community gatherings where the information about the project is disseminated. This is to ensure sustainability because once the project faces off then the community can carry on.
This project is called WASH, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene therefore latrines or sanitation is part not the end of the project. This means that construction of toilets is running simultaneously with the construction of water tanks and taps to ensure complete hygiene. In this village, Ha Lebele, the water tap was about 3 km from the village but is now broken and neglected. The downfall might be that it was too far from the village therefore not easy to protect especially given that most of the residents are widows.
However, a new tank which stores 5 000 litres is being constructed close to the village and will the taps that are in the village to minimise travelling. This is has made villagers happy as they can now access clean water and at short distances from their and thus ensuring their safety. This means there will be no need for girls to find companions when they have to fetch water to avoid the risk of being raped.