Adarsh Kataruka | Originally published on soulace.in
The “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” campaign was kick-started on 2nd October, 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s, who led from the forefront wielding a broom to make India clean and open defecation free (ODF) nation by the year 2019. He invited all the Indians to devote 100 hours to clean their surroundings. The most important aspect of the clean India drive is to build Toilets for rural households and sanitation complexes for girls and boys in the schools.
The campaign has already got overwhelming support from corporate houses as part of CSR as well as celebrities joining in to make it a mass movement. As per Census 2011, 113 million households do not have toilets, which means nearly 50% of households in India still defecate in the open being exposed to healthcare challenges, harassment and shame.
Girl dropout ratio from schools in rural India after Class V is 50%, where lack of separate toilet facility for girls in government schools is the central de-motivating factor amongst others for dropping out.
With the extensive campaign, the importance of toilets has been highlighted and CSR initiatives are being planned on building toilets in schools for girls. In this euphoria of creating toilets, it is of utmost importance to look towards the sustainability of the initiative otherwise the momentum gained would yield no result and the toilets would end up being a storeroom.
SoulAce Social Venture, a specialised firm in the field of CSR & Sustainability has already covered 20 states in India, for various socio-economic need assessment studies and impact assessment studies at villages for different companies for their CSR activities. During several studies it has been found that number of initiatives were neither successful nor created impact, because sustainability was never in mind during planning of the project.
Building toilets without people using it is not going to serve any purpose. Equal focus should be on behavioural change and creating enabling infrastructure systems for smooth usage.
Bill Gates, who’s foundation (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has been actively working in India on sanitation, recently met the Prime Minister and highlighted on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that “Rural development and building toilets is only the beginning, getting the behaviours to change is a big challenge”
In order to bring out behaviour change, extensive awareness generation initiatives would need to be undertaken with regards to the negative healthcare issues related to open defecation. Different stakeholders would need to be part of the behaviour change campaign including students, teachers, principal, parents and panchayat. Different mediums can be used for creating awareness like comics, wall painting, audiovisual tools and street plays among others.
With regards to the enabling infrastructural facilities, it is important to ensure regular water supply to maintain hygiene and hand washing facilities. Water supply would require pump set and electricity to run it, which is still non-existent in many backward districts in India. Options of solar pump set could also be explored. Rainwater harvesting facilities in schools could also be promoted, which can feed the toilets water supply.
The role of multiple stakeholders has been well acknowledged by the Prime Minister for the initiative to be successful. With regards to CSR initiatives on toilets, apart from hiring contractors to create toilet facilities, companies would need to partner with social organisations in ensuring behaviour change and maintenance. Every primary and secondary school has a school management committee, which would need to be empowered to ensure sustainability of the initiative and financial support from the panchayat’s sanitation funds could help in regular maintenance of the toilets.
The interest being generated for CSR activities under “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” has been unprecedented and its important that we channelize the efforts towards creating sustained impact; otherwise it might end up being another initiative with only physical infrastructures being created.
Adarsh Kataruka is an Ennovent Circle member and the Founder and Director at SoulAce – a professional organization specializing in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability in India.