The 13th edition of Dasra Philanthropy Week, hosted by Dasra, a strategic philanthropy organisation, brought to fore their vision of a transformed India where A Billion Thrive with dignity and equity. The session Leaving No One Behind: Ensuring Inclusive Sanitation For Every City amply captured this sentiment. The major challenge in ensuring city wide inclusive sanitation (CWIS) lies in two-thirds of the 60 million urban households in India that do not have access to safe and adequate sanitation. The session highlighted how, despite the systemic obstacles furthering this disparity, some cities and states in India have pioneered community-led inclusive sanitation models. These models serve to include women and provide solutions to the unique challenges faced by informal settlements and the people residing there.
The first panel included Bishnupriya Behera, (President, Aradhana Area Level Federation), Kusumlata Devda (Ward Councillor, Jodhpur Municipal Corporation), Pankajan Mathivanan (Ward Councillor, Trichy Municipal Corporation) and was moderated by Meghna Malhotra (Deputy Director, UMC).
There are 70,000 women’s self-help groups with at least 7 lac women members across India. The discussion with panel members brought out the significance of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in conveying women’s concerns to the municipal corporation officials. The need for spreading awareness on issues related with hygiene, sanitation and waste was also discussed.
Kusumlata Devda, who was a member of an SHG – Misaal – before she became a councillor, said, “When I visit the municipal corporation officials, the SHG women accompany me and put forth their opinions and requirements. This greatly benefits me. These are sisters who were earlier shy of coming out of their homes, but after joining the SHG they write letters stating their issues and even file online complaints. Bridging this communication gap has helped the officials to understand the challenges of informal settlements better and acknowledge that the women of informal settlements can stand up for their rights.”
Bishnupriya Behera said, “I went to the municipal office several times for resolving the issue of waste in my community, but it was not until 30-40 representatives from our Area Level Federation (ALF) went together that the issue was resolved. We also ensured that while collecting waste from our settlement, the collectors waited for 15-20 minutes outside houses where persons with disabilities were living, so that they would have enough time to bring out the waste. Another initiative we took as ALF was the construction of a community toilet. However, we found that people were still defecating in the open. So, we started an awareness campaign to educate them about sanitation and importance of using toilets. We observed that a larger number of people starting using the toilet after we started the campaign.”