This American Woman Is Changing Lives In Rural India, One Toilet At A Time

This American Woman Is Changing Lives In Rural India, One Toilet At A Time

Marta, who grew up in Boston, is helping India overcome the problem of open defecation by giving them access to what should be a basic right – a toilet.
Swachh Warriors, Women's Day Special
- in Swachh Warriors, Women's Day Special

When 20 year old Renu got married and moved from Ludhiana to Usuri in Uttar Pradesh, she was in for a shock. Her new home had no toilet and she had to use the fields outside to relieve herself.

“Until I got married, I always thought of a ‘toilet’ as a basic necessity and right. I took it for granted that we had a toilet at home.It’s only when I did not have one did I realise its importance,” says Renu.

After struggling for one and a half years, Renu finally got a toilet at her house. Helping her was American PhD student, Marta Vanduzer-Snow who has been in India for the past 3 years.

For generations, girls in India have lived without toilets. They have grown used to holding their bladders and bowels for long, added Renu.

Marta, who grew up in Boston and volunteers with the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana, is helping India overcome this problem by giving them access to what should be a basic right – a toilet. Until now, she has built more than 100 low-cost evapotranspiration toilets in the villages of Usuri, Ayodhya Ka Purwa, Jimidar ka Purwa and Dhakolia. She is currently working on 20 new toilets in one other hamlet of Uttar Pradesh.

What’s interesting is that the evapotranspiration toilet built by Marta just costs Rs 9,978 whereas government toilet, built under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan costs about Rs 17,000.

For the villagers impacted by Marta’s work, these toilets finally mean an end to open defecation.

“It was my dream to build a toilet for my daughter. I disliked the fact that she had to defecate in the open or hold it for too long before she could relieve herself. At present, I am working with Marta and helping her out to build more toilets in my village. I am not doing this for money but for my own family and villagers,” said one of the villagers living in Usuri.

This American Woman Is Changing Lives In Rural India, One Toilet At A Time 4

So what are evapotranspiration toilets and how do they differ from bio-toilets?

Read More: What Are Bio-Toilets?

The evapotranspiration toilet design used to make India Open Defecation free has a single tank, which, is five feet tall, two feet wide and nine feet long.

First the tank is lined with a nonporous material and then filled with layers of broken brick, small stones and sand. Together these layers, through the processes of evaporation and transpiration, filter the waste matter so that almost 70 percent of it becomes biogas exiting out of the back pipe and the remaining 30 percent slowly rises to the top as organic material.

“This toilet model which I am using in rural villages of India is what the Brazilian government is using there,” said Marta.

This American Woman Is Changing Lives In Rural India, One Toilet At A Time 3

Almost as important as building new toilets, it its regular maintenance and upkeep.

“We do follow-ups with the toilet users and conducts two feedback sessions. Also, we do performance surveys after every twelve-months,” said Marta.

The first two villages where toilets were constructed were personally funded by Marta and the next three villages were crowd-funded.

“Crowd-funding is an ideal platform. It makes villagers aware about the basic thing – Sanitation. I along with my team take initiatives to educate these people about their basic rights,” added Marta.

Not only this, Marta is also helping rural India, by making better roads, setting up solar power units and libraries. She was instrumental in solar powering homes in villages of Rae Bareli. Adding to the list, Marta is also running literacy programs for rural kids in all the villages wherever she is working at that point of time. She also teamed up with ‘Mera Doctor’ a 24×7 doctor-on-call service for free for a year in two of the villages.


  1. S.Krishnamoorthy

    Great job by Ms Martha. May God bless her to continue this noble task. Will be happy to associate myself with her future philanthropic activities.

  2. S.Krishnamoorthy

    Great job by Ms Martha.May Go give bless her to continue this noble task.Will be happy to associate myself with her future philanthropic activities.

  3. I am keen to get associated with the program purely on voluntary basis.

  4. Great Job Matra and appreciate your humanitarian work. Hope that UP Ministers and Officials will come to know your great job which should push them to provide this basic requirement to the mostly needed people, rather than making big speeches and filling their big pockets …

    GOD bless you.

  5. Great work by Marta,,,We are now getting aware of problems of Open defacation ,,thanks to Swacch Bharat Abhiyan.

  6. Great work by this young lady. The delusional pundits from UP should learn from this foreigner on how to be a truly great human being.

  7. Thanks a lot for spreading the sanitation awareness! But some facts need to be put in perspective. Neither biotoilet or evapotranspiration toilets are dry toilets. So in the comparison table probably you meant “water facility” as “wastewater treatment facility”, right? Because so far we know, Biotoilet you mentioned, does discharge wastewater which needs treatment to reduce chance of infection, especially in domestic installation.Treatment may not be required on railway track as wastewater gets spreaded over large area & dries quickly. So bugs in the wastewater die easily. Evapotranspiration toilet is good idea in many respect but it may need large area; also may need treatment where ground water table is high

  8. involving local people convince them about the importance of toilets and contributions financially and physically is the only solution. Who will do it?

  9. Our Government doing least and projecting something else i.e. fake publicity and show off… Please see those who are actually serving humanity don’t howl ..

  10. If Marta is reading this, I would like to support for 2 Toilets.

  11. can we contribute money to marta?

  12. Well done, Marta.. You have the blessings from all the Indians you have helped.

  13. God bless you and give you strengh and loads of hands to help you to go further in ur good deeds.

  14. Can I have an email ID for Marta…god bless her, what fantastic work! Anand

  15. Thank you and May God Bless you in your work. Ignore negative comments..they are usually made from ‘worthless’ people.

  16. can i have email address of Marta

  17. Great Job, and very inspiring that you found happiness in serving Indian society!!

  18. We want foreigners to find solutions for our toilet problems as well.

  19. Thank you!

  20. How do we implement this in slums in Bombay. The slum community near my home in mumbai live near the sea and use the open rocks for defecation. How do we get them toilets

    1. hi Itz Anu Lohia from pune i been through all this and decided to do something regarding this open defecation. our company provide public toilets they survey the area can suggest you

  21. Yogendra (Yogi) Sanghwan

    This is so amazing and wonderful to hear what Marta is doing in Uttar Pradesh.

    I am originally from UP and recently retired after working 36 years in USA. I currently live in Canada and would love to get involved in this project. Please let me know if you are accepting help. I am fluent in Hindi and English.

    1. I guess you can email her and involved in such great deeds.

    2. If you want to help, may be you should contact Marta at

  22. Great job, young lady. You are truly working for humanity far away from your own country. Very inspirational indeed. We will not forget your contribution.

  23. Shame on our governments since the independence that foreigners have to come build toilets for us. Shame!

    1. Pls don’t shame the government. We MUST shame ourselves for not giving back to the society thru social work or any participation helping the community. We don’t need governments for that.

    2. Which government you are talking about the corrupt one I suppose, because this government has made people aware of toilets. It looks like in your opinion government should do everything. People have to do their work like you and help other people to become ware of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Prime Minister Narendra Modi To Inaugurate Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra On Saturday, August 8; Interact With Students

Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra is an interactive experience centre, where the installations will introduce future generations to the journey of the world's largest behaviour change campaign, the Swachh Bharat Mission