Before I had a latrine, I would have to use this
We turned onto a shadowy, dirt path, blanketed with half-composted leaves and branches as Ms Thoeung Hoeur came into sight. Not more than a hundred meters from her home, she still had a long trip ahead of her. Rolling a meter or so at a time, then stopping with a “clack” as the front wheel of her wheelchair inevitably became wedged sideways on a rock or dip in the pathway, she painstakingly pushed on. As iDE’s field staff caught up with her, she smiled and accepted a short push back home.
Ms Hoeur lost the use of her legs as a young woman when a cart she was riding to deliver rice collapsed underneath her. In rural Siem Reap province, Cambodia, mobility is a challenge even for those who can walk. Crumbling, dirt, or non-existent infrastructure, even more treacherous in the muddy, flood-prone monsoon season, makes for a variety of day-to-day hurdles. But after Ms Hoeur’s accident, one of the most difficult parts of her day was something that billions of people worldwide take for granted: going to the bathroom. When asked to describe how she managed to do this, she reached for a one meter stick with a flat, metal tip. “Before I had a latrine, I would have to use this.”
She would take her makeshift shovel, push herself out to the field, dig a small hole, and lower herself down off the chair, onto the hole. When she was done, she would lift herself back onto her chair- not one to surrender the dignity of going to the bathroom in privacy. Seasonal monsoons made this chore a nightmare.
When an iDE sales agent approached her offering a sitting latrine, including a shelter with handrails and a ramp at the entrance, her life changed. Ms. Hoeur and her family made the investment to purchase it with cash, and in less than a month, she would never need to drag her rusty old shovel out to the rice fields again. For her, this latrine is more than a convenience: it’s freedom.