Over 73 per cent of rural Tamil Nadu defecates in the open. The construction cost is a major deterrent for poor people. “It equals our monthly income,” says Trirathimala of Chettikulam village in Tiruchirappalli district. Realising this critical gap in providing sanitation, Gramalaya started a microfinance programme, the Gramalaya Urban and Rural Development Initia-tive Network (GUARDIAN) in 2007 and targeted women’s self-help groups (SHGs) . “Women play a very crucial role in decision-making in any household. The mobilisation of SHGs helped reduce physical and emotional barriers to avail commercial credit and increase investment in sanitation facilities,” says M Elangovan, executive director of Gramalaya.