Amivi Naja Sousa

A story about a toilet in Timor-Leste

Friday, December 16, 2016
How a sanitation project helped this woman feel valued again

Meet Amivi Naja Sousa.* She lives in Uma Quic, a subdivision of the district of Viqueque in southern Timor-Leste. Her story is one of overcoming serious physical and emotional obstacles. And it is an inspirational one.

My Avondale College of Higher Education classmates and I are visiting Uma Quic to assess an Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) water and sanitation project as part of our studies in international poverty and development studies. This is what we learn about Amivi.

It is early 2000. Amivi is married with seven children. Her husband takes a trip to Viqueque, the capital of the district. He never returns.

In Timor-Leste, like in many developing countries, the men work the fields and earn a household’s wage while the women collect water. So, Amivi not only has to face the emotional challenge of separation but also the financial challenge of caring for seven children with no source of income.

Soon after her husband leaves, Amivi gets to work. She borrows $100 from non-government organisation Moris-Rasik as part of a microfinance project. She opens a store where she sells food and products such as soap. She slowly repays the money. After a few more loans, Amivi has established her store and the profits provide enough income to sustain her and her children.

But Amivi is in poor health—she has tuberculosis. She and her children have no toilet. With no adult male figure in the household, they are in no position to build one. Amivi uses her neighbour’s toilet when she can but this creates tension between Amivi and her neighbour. Amivi feels alone and isolated.

An ADRA Connections team visits Amivi’s village in January 2015. The team partners with ADRA Timor-Leste, which collaborates with village chiefs and others to ensure sustainable project delivery. The team members hear Amivi’s story, and they build her a toilet. Amivi’s daughter is eager to help and works alongside the team members.

The other villagers do not resent Amivi for the treatment she receives—they understand her situation.

So, for the first time since her husband leaves, Amivi feels she belongs to her community again. She is grateful for the help of the ADRA Connections team.

What is next for Amivi? The police offer to help find her husband, but Amivi refuses—she is managing OK without him. She wants to continue providing for her children, and she wants a water source in her house.

Thanks to the help of the ADRA Connections team, Amivi is one step closer to attaining better hygiene and health.

* Name has been changed

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Author

Ashley Steele

Ashley Steele is a Bachelor of Arts student specialising in communication and majoring in international poverty and development studies at Avondale College of Higher Education.