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Water & Sanitation

Building bathrooms in Cambodia

Asia Development Bank/ Flickr

In 1990, an estimated 89 percent of Cambodians did not use toilets. While that figure has decreased to about 47 percent over the past 25 years, the majority of villagers in Boeung Khna, Cambodia, still used the bushes near their homes as their latrine. 

The statistics prompted Heifer Cambodia to implement the Promotion and Protection of Women’s Rights and Women’s Social Economic Empowerment project in January 2013. The project started working with partners to promote proper hygiene and sanitation through trainings and campaigns.

Duk Pisey, 35, joined the Chamroeun Phal self-help group (SHG) in Prey Damrey Village as part of the project when it began. Like many families around them, Pisey’s family used the bushes within a 100-yard perimeter from their home as a latrine. 

Cambodian sanitation_001.JPGImage: Heifer Cambodia

The bushes were dirty and rancid with the odor of human waste, especially during the rainy season when most of people in her community went there, too. Pisey said she was often concerned for the safety of the women and girls in her community, especially at night.

But all of that has changed for Pisey, she says. 

Her involvement in the self-help group and Heifer project allowed her a small savings. So, she had an idea. 

“After attending [Heifer’s] 12 Cornerstones training, I realized my family needs a latrine and bathroom, so I discussed it with my husband, and we started to save the money. I spent about 2 million riels (about $500) to build a proper latrine and bathroom,” Pisey said. “That isn’t a small amount of money, by any means, and I never would have dreamt that I could save it.”

Cambodian sanitation 2.JPGImage: Heifer Cambodia

Kong Ratha, a community facilitator, said the trainings helped educate the villagers that proper sanitation could translate to better health for everyone, especially the children in the area. That triggered a change in attitudes toward improving the sanitation in the home environment and a commitment to change their behavior, she said. 

“Since we have joined the group and installed the latrine, my family is healthier and keep the house clean,” Pisey said. “And we don’t have to worry about the safety of going to the bushes at night.”

cambodian sanitation 3.JPGImage: Heifer Cambodia

The awareness of the need for sanitary bathrooms has transformed Pisey’s community, too. She said several families have built their own latrines and more are already putting money aside.

“If we wanted to have a latrine and a bathroom, we needed to plan for it, and I’m glad we did. My family is happy as we now eat healthier thanks to our improved hygiene and sanitation,” Pisey said.

Story by Hem Kong, Project Coordinator, and translated by Khiev Sadeth in support of Heifer International.