Tag Archives: India

Understanding the Problems of India’s Sanitation Workers

Understanding the Problems of India’s Sanitation Workers. The Wire, November 13, 2018.

Despite increasing focus by the government and programmes such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, unsafe sanitation work, loosely captured under the catch-all phrase manual scavenging, still exists in India. There are five million people employed in sanitation work of some sort in India with about two million of them working in ‘high risk’ conditions.

Here is the first article in a series which introduces the situation of sanitation workers in the country, their different personas, the challenges they face, and the solutions that are essential to improving this situation.

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Credit: Dalberg Advisors

The last few years have been the golden age for sanitation in India. What started out as the Total Sanitation Campaign in the 1990s morphed into the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan under the UPA Government and then transformed into the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan with full gusto driven by the prime minister’s special attention.

This translated directly into increased budgets, a mission-mode implementation across the country and by official estimates, 80 million additional toilets getting constructed. Now, over 89% of the country’s population has access to a household toilet, compared to 40% in 2014.

Read the complete article.

Jack Sim – Making India open defecation free

Opinion | Making India open defecation free. by Jack Sim in Livemint, October 17, 2018.

Many people view toilets as impure and refrain from installing them within their household premises 

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The risks associated with open defecation in India are not just restricted to diseases. Rapes occur when women and young girls are on their way to fields to defecate at night. Photo: Mint

For most of us, going to the toilet is as simple and natural as breathing. However, for many it is a daily nightmare. About 2.3 billion people in the world do not have access to clean, safe and reliable toilets. They have to walk for miles every day to reach a safe spot where they can relieve themselves in the open. Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 280,000 deaths worldwide, annually.

In India, about 732 million people do not have access to proper toilets. As much as 90% of the river water is contaminated by faeces. People drink water from the same rivers, bathe and wash their clothes and utensils there, and even cook food with the contaminated water. Pathogens and worms from the faeces spread life-threatening diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, schistosomiasis and trachoma.

Read the complete article.

Toilets need water, Indian women suffer under ODF drive

Toilets in households have only increased the drudgery of village women as they have to fetch water from faraway sources for toilet use, writes Amita Bhaduri, Programme Director of the Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development (SPWD), in an article posted on the Indian Water Portal.

Rajasthan is all geared up for the open defecation free (ODF) status well before the national deadline of October 2, 2019. According to the assistant engineer of the nagar parishad, Resha Singh, 4.75 lakh [475 thousand] toilets have been constructed since October 2, 2014 in Alwar district which is about to be declared ODF.

Paari, a 45-year-old woman of Ghevron ki dhaani village in the district got a toilet at her household under this toilet construction drive. She does not have to go far away to find a place for her sanitary needs anymore. She is, however, unhappy and exhausted from the numerous trips to the water source she has to make to get water in the toilet. Her feet are aching from treading the path filled with rocks and thorns without any footwear for protection.

Water access and women's donkey work

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SACH Impact Incubator seeks applications from Indian WASH & waste management social ventures

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Subhash Chandra Foundation, the philanthropic initiative of Rajya Sabha MP and Essel Group Chairman, Subhash Chandra has launched ‘SACH Impact’ Incubator, in partnership with LetsEndorse, to support early-stage social ventures aspiring to solve the problems of millions of Indians.

Two annual cohorts of resolute social entrepreneurs shall be constituted every year, with each one working on one of the 8 focal areas (Education, Healthcare, Clean Energy, Agriculture, Inclusion, Waste Management, Livelihood, WASH), aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The programme aims to equip them with market access for pilots, financial support to do so, necessary mentorship, knowledge networks & more, to take their solutions to the next level and prepare them to scale and serve the large Indian population.

Ventures with already developed testable versions of their innovative product/technology/software or those which have just begun conducting pilot tests on-the-ground and have the potential to make transformational impact on the society can apply online through this link: http://bit.ly/SachImpact before 25th June, 2018

Swachh Bharat cities: What the parameters of cleanliness are

Swachh Bharat cities: What the parameters of cleanliness are. India Today, May 2018.

Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri released Swachh Survekshan 2018, the Modi government’s cleanliness and sanitation survey report.

While Jharkhand emerged as the best-performing state in terms of cleanliness, Indore in Madhya Pradesh was adjudged the cleanest city in the country, according to the survey released yesterday.

Swachh Survekshan – a survey conducted to rank cities on various sanitation and cleanliness parameters – was launched in 2016. It was conducted among 73 top cities of India.

It was followed by Swachh Survekshan 2017 that covered 434 cities.

The third round of Swachh Survekshan was conducted in January and February, covering all 4041 statutory towns in India.

Read the complete article.

Is Bollywood’s Pad Man movie too good to be true?

Checking the facts and assumptions about menstrual hygiene in developing countries.

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Painting by students of the Dr. M.M. den Hertogschool, The Hague, on the importance of menstrual hygiene management and school WASH. Photo: IRC

March 8th was International Women’s Day. Which approach to menstrual hygiene management fits best with this year’s theme urging everyone to #PressforProgress on gender parity? Is it pressing for access to affordable menstrual products or is there more to it?

A few weeks ago, I joined a group of my female colleagues and family to watch “Pad Man”, the Bollywood film inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham.  He is an acclaimed Indian social activist and entrepreneur who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. Muruganantham famously tested sanitary pads on himself, using a bladder with animal blood, while riding his bicycle. “Pad Man” is a feel good, uplifting movie. We left the cinema dancing to the tune of the Pad Man Song.

Too good to be true?

But then, a few days later an IRC colleague from India referred us to a blog that claimed to tell the “real story” about the man, who “shot to fame by selling shame”. The author, Sinu Joseph, is Managing Trustee of the Myrthi Speaks Trust, a Bengaluru-based social activist group working on issues including menstrual health and sanitation. Sinu had initially been involved in distributing Mr. Muruganantham’s sanitary pads until angry mothers complained that she was “trying to get rid of some cheap stuff by dumping it” on their daughters.

Fact check

Sinu counters several of the “facts” mentioned in “Pad Man”, which are also regularly quoted in the media. The first is that Indian women use ash, sand and husks as menstrual absorbents and consequently suffer “from Reproductive Tract Infections for want of a Pad”.  Sinu has found no evidence of this, both from her own experience and the literature. In fact, she says there is no evidence linking the use of menstrual products such as cloth to any menstrual disorder.

Second is the widely quoted statistic that only 12% of Indian women use sanitary napkins. Wrong again, says Sinu: the National Family Health Study of 2015-16 found that the real number is 57.6% , 48.5% in rural, 77.5% in urban areas. Finally, there is no evidence that girls in India drop out of school owing to menstruation and the lack of sanitary napkins. Similar findings emerged from a 2010 study in Nepal, which at the time was not welcomed by the pro-sanitary napkin development lobby.

A developing country problem?

The evidence Sinu refers to, comes from a review of 90 papers, which Myrthi Speaks conducted in 2016. The review not only dispels the “facts” mentioned above but also challenges the assumption that developing countries have a greater prevalence of menstrual disorders than in the West. In fact, the review found that the opposite is true. In developed nations, a higher percentage of adult women and adolescents suffer from heavy bleeding and painful or irregular periods than in developing countries.

Shame

So why has the real-life Pad Man attracted so much uncritical support? Is it because this unlikely hero, an uneducated man, took it upon himself to elevate Indian women from their shameful state? Indeed, most of the women in the Pad Man movie are portrayed as ignorant, led by superstition. In Sinu’s words, “shame has been sold to us in a nice package with celebrity endorsements”.

Glorifying traditional practices?

Sinu has been criticised for promoting the traditional practice of seclusion, which she says provides women who are part of joint families “privacy and comfort during menstruation”. A 2015 blog by Eco Femme, an Indian social enterprise producing washable sanitary pads, said that Sinu neglects those women who experience being excluded as degrading. Harrowing stories about the illegal Nepali practice of Chhaupadi, where girls are forced to spend their periods in cattle sheds, come to mind. The Pad Man film similarly condemns the segregation of women during menstruation.

Interestingly, Arunachalam Muruganantham, Sinu Joseph, Eco Femme, along with many development agencies all claim that they understand women’s needs. Whose view do you support? Or have they all got it wrong?

This blog was originally posted on the IRC website.

Update, 21 March 2018

On 16 March 2018 a TEDxKLETech talk by Sinu Joseph on the “Super science behind Menstrual practices” carried the following warning by TEDx “This talk contains several assertions about Ayurveda that are not supported by studies in gynecological medicine. While some viewers might find advice provided in this talk to be helpful as a complementary approach, please do not look to this talk for medical advice”.

Sanitary Napkin PadBank: Here’s How Some Women Are Pushing The Menstrual Hygiene Cause

Sanitary Napkin PadBank: Here’s How Some Women Are Pushing The Menstrual Hygiene Cause. Banega Swachh India, March 7, 2018.

From an MLA initiating India’s first sanitary PadBank to a 16-year-old coming forward to help the girls of her age, PadBanks being run by different women are emerging to be an important mechanism to provide sanitary napkins to women without means. Here are five such PadBanks

Move over PadMan, PadBanks are now what many are adopting to reach out to women with no access or awareness about menstrual hygiene. These PadBanks retain the basic functionality of a bank, but instead of money these dispense sanitary pad, either from free or charge a discounted rate.

While some women are providing sanitary napkins at a cheaper rate, others are breaking the myths and taboos associated with menstruation by making people aware. These women are not only challenging the societal norms, but have also made it their mission to raise the level of menstrual hygiene in Indiaindia

In India, 88 per cent of menstruating women do not use sanitary napkins. Be it ignorance or lack of affordability, the fact is that majority of women in India rely on unhygienic alternatives during periods.

In a bid to change this reality, women in India are providing sanitary napkins to less fortunate women and girls.

Read the complete article.