Psychosocial Stress Associated with Sanitation Practices: Experiences of women in a rural community in India
This study examined sources of psychosocial stress related to the use of toilet facilities or open defecation by women and adolescent girls at home, public places, workplaces and in schools in a rural community in Pune, India. The mixed methods approach included focus group discussions among women, key informant interviews, free listing and a community survey of 306 women. Nine per cent of the study households and most seasonal migrant women workers lacked access to toilets. Fear for personal safety, injury or accidents, lack of cleanliness, indignity, shame and embarrassment due to a lack of privacy were significant sources of stress related to open defecation. Seasonal migrant women workers perceived the lack of privacy as a significant source of psychosocial stress but did not fear for their personal safety or injuries, despite their general lack of access to toilet facilities. Women resorting to open defecation feel stressed and harassed by community leaders trying to enforce open defecation-free policies. Our study highlights the need for sanitation programs to consider the specific needs of women with regard to latrine maintenance, safety and privacy offered by sanitation installations. Specific strategies to address the sanitation and hygiene issues of seasonal migrant populations are also required.