Household toilets transform lives and empower women in 300 Pune slums
Homes with household toilets in more than 300 slums in Pune have reported a decline in urinary tract infection among women from 23% to 13%; reduction in community toilet usage from 21% to 6% and a substantial rise in better diet and nutrition from 5% to 27%.
The survey, among 20,000 slumdwellers with household toilets, was conducted from 2015 onwards by Shelter Associates, a Pune non government organisation (NGO), which has partnered with a number of civic bodies, including the Pune municipal corporation (PMC) to provide low-cost household toilets.
One such beneficiary is Sujata Londhe, 38, who’s daughter Diksha is specially-abled. The child suffered enormously because of the unavailability of a toilet at home. “We would be worried till she returned from the community toilet and days when she would get delayed, would leave us in panic.” A toilet at home in their one room house, has meant enormous relief, said Sujata.
Like Diksha, several other women have benefitted from the initiative.
Pratima Joshi, co-founder, Shelter Associates, said, “When we would conduct surveys, women would be skeptical about having toilets in their home. Primarily, because they live in really small spaces. However, once they built the toilets, things changed.” They no longer had to queue up at community toilets, nor did they have to restrict food intake at night.
Farzana Sheikh, a resident of Balajinagar slums, spoke of the travails of open defecation during the monsoons. “We are happy that we agreed to build a toilet in our home; we have an attached bathroom too,” she said .
Coordinated effort since early 2000 by the PMC and Shelter Associates, which focuses on poverty mapping, housing and sanitation, has not only brought empowerment to school-going girls and women, but has also raised the self-esteem of entire families living in the slums.
With more than 50% of its 35 lakh population living in the slums, the PMC took an early start on urban sanitation under then municipal commissioners Ratnakar Gaikwad and Kunal Kumar, presently joint secretary, ministry of housing and urban affairs.
What provided a massive push to the civic programme was Shelter Associates’s missionary zeal under Joshi. Post-2014 came the impetus from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission and its focus on ending open defecation in the country.
In 2014-15, Shelter Associates in association with the Pune municipal corporation received HUDCO's 'Best Practice' award for its One Home-One Toilet project. Early this month, Joshi received the Indian Institute of Materials Management's 'Unsung Hero' award for her work in this area. “With the successful implementation of this model, we have reached out to over 13,000 families directly with household toilets,” Joshi said.
When she began her work on sanitation, she realised that the situation was far more evolved in Pune than most other cities. From early 2000 onwards, she was in the forefront in trying to create access to some form of sanitation for urban poor.The PMC at that time had started with a really ambitious programme of community toilets in 2000-2002, by former municipal commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad.
Gaikwad was sensitive to the issue of sanitation in Pune’s slums and engaged many NGOs in the construction of community toilets. However, his initiative suffered from poor implementation and lack of maintenance, said Joshi.
During a project in Sangli, Shelter Associates realised that individual household toilets were a better plan than community toilets. “In 2005-2007, we helped build close to 900 household toilets in Sangli. And, in 2012 we had the opportunity to work in Pune in Dhayari. These places already had drainage networks in place and we had worked on a community toilet project for them in 2002. They expressed their interest for individual toilets. In 2012-2013, we started refining our One home One Toilet (OHOT) scheme because we had to really scale it.”
A turning point in Pune came when former civic commissioner Kunal Kumar was invited by Shelter Associates for the 1,000 toilet inauguration. “He saw it first hand and was convinced,” said Joshi and then, followed considerable support under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
While PMC has so far delivered more than 46,500 individual household toilets to slum dwellers in Pune, the Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporation and Kolhapur municipal corporation are scaling this model in their efforts to make the respective cities open defecation free.
Shelter Associates has facilitated construction of 13,459 toilets of which 3,952 are in Pune, 4,354 in neighbouring Pimpri-Chinchwad and the rest in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kolhapur and Sangli.