The following guest posts provide snapshots of the work of three recipients of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grants for work on innovative WASH and gender interventions in India.
By Akhila Sivadas,Project Director, Center for Advocacy and Research, New Delhi: Rajasthani camp, a cluster of 600 households in South Delhi, is one of the 27 settlements where the Center for Advocacy and Research is facilitating the formation of Women’s’ Forums, which enable the community to collectively negotiate with the municipality for better sanitation services. Like all other settlements we have worked in, the women of Rajasthani Camp were frustrated with broken toilets, clogged drains, and garbage heaps in their community. The Women’s Forum launched a multi-pronged initiative this past fall. Armed with the community-specific disease data that emerged from a health conversation we convened, the Forum raised their concerns with a local leader who pressured authorities to fix the situation. Their persistence and determination has already paid off: toilet renovations are currently underway.
By Sampath Kumor,Project Director, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, The Self Help Groups of Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust provide potent platforms to discuss and disseminate the objectives of the WASH and gender project. Women from socially and economically marginalized groups have now found a forum to discuss subjects that have always been disapproved and stigmatized. For communities with little choice but to defecate in the open, the process of identification of the risk and vulnerability of the same (particularly for adolescent girls) is a step closer towards the aim. In addition, targeted Self Help Groups for young women are utilizing peer-to-peer discussions to address menstrual hygiene management. The march is on!
By Kathleen O’Reilly, Texas A&M University: In our research on successful sanitation habits in rural West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh, we have learned that using a toilet is so commonplace for mothers with young children that they often do not recognize the advantages gained by having a toilet. Despite casual replies to questions about the convenience of a household toilet, observation of mothers’ daily routines reveals that they take advantage of the toilet’s proximity by leaving children unattended when they use it. We have found that the toilet has become so useful and so habitual that women are no longer conscious of the burden it would be to take children with them for open defecation.