Suvidha by HUL & HSBC - Bringing hygiene & sanitation to urban communities
With accelerated urbanization, India’s cities face the immense pressure of providing low-income communities with access to proper hygiene and sanitation facilities. Even more-so during the global pandemic, individuals living in urban slums have been disproportionately affected by the lack of clean water and sanitation – which creates for them an additional burden of contracting the virus among other communicable and non-communicable dieses. In such a scenario, improving access to hygiene needs is essential.
The HUL solution
Suvidha, the community hygiene centre by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), helps supplement the efforts of the government to ensure that sparkling clean toilets, affordable drinking water, and state-of-the-art laundry services are available to urban low-income households in Mumbai.
The first such centre was launched at Azad Nagar in Ghatkopar and subsequently 4 more centres were launched in Malad Malvani, Govandi, Ambewadi in Andheri and Kurla. The 6th and biggest centre yet, is being constructed at Dharavi. Five out of the six centres have been set up in partnership with HSBC and with the support of the BMC and on ground partners such as United Way Mumbai (NGO) & Pratha Samajik Sanstha (a community-based organization).
The Suvidha Centres, located in Mumbai’s most challenging slum areas, offer a holistic approach to the issues of poor personal hygiene, lack of laundry facilities, lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation. They promote a safe and welcoming environment for everyone and provide clean flushing toilet facilities for women, men and children, accessible toilets for people with disabilities, facilities for feminine hygiene needs and a safe, private, hygienic, and odor-free environment. The centres have also been designed with safety in mind with separate entrances for women and girls. Specific toilets open at night help reduce the risk of violence that is so prevalent at many slum toilets.
Because handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases like diarrhea, there are designated stations on each floor for handwashing. Soap is provided along with messages to encourage handwashing at the right times and in the right way.
Additionally, the centres provide modern laundry facilities with detergent that help members of the community save time, energy, and money. The clothes are already 60% dry after washing. Women typically wash clothes by hand on a daily basis. With access to laundry facilities at the centre, women now have time available for education, employment, childcare and rest.
To encourage the maximum number of people to avail of the services, they are provided at a nominal cost of of INR 1 for 1 litre of water and INR 150 a month for a family of 5 to access the toilets. Children have free access to the toilets. Laundry facilities are also offered at a much lower cost than typical market rates. Also, the communities around the centres are taught the importance of good habits via various interventions to ensure sustained behaviour change and improvement in individual and overall community health. Via the 5 centres, over 12,000 individuals are reached daily.
Millions of litres of water saved
The centres have been designed with careful consideration of the environmental impact of water use. The design is based on a circular economy approach to water wherein the water from handwashing and laundry facilities are used to flush the toilets. With the addition of the 5th centre over 21 litres of water have been saved and recycled.
The centres are built in close consultation with the local community, which is why it is so effective in addressing their problems. It has also helped generate livelihoods by involving the members of the community in the running, cleaning, and managing of the day to day functioning of the centre.
The ‘Suvidha’ model is definitely a big hit with the local communities, as the centres offer a convenient and affordable solution to all their civic woes, as well as a means of employment. Another plus is that it’s easy to replicate—similar centres can be set up across the country.
As India treads on the path to development and strives to provide a prosperous and equitable future to all, the Suvidha model will ensure good hygiene for all in reality.