National Summit on Water and Sustainable Sanitation

The impressive GDP growth rate in India over the last decade has made way for an ever growing poverty gap. With urban population expanding at an explosive rate, it has become difficult for the cities to cope with the sudden influx of the poor populous. Slums have popped up overnight and the lack of planning at city level for informal settlements has made it very difficult for these people to access basic facilities such as sanitation, water, and electricity. This is a matter of social justice that has been neglected in our country since decades.

On the 7th January 2016, the National Summit on Sustainable Water and Sanitation will be held to deliberate on the water and sanitation needs of India. The panel discussions will be attended by dignitaries from the government as well as the private sector. This is a huge opportunity for members from these sectors to interact and collaborate on matters. The forum will be extremely useful in highlighting best practices that are being implemented across the country that can be emulated in other cities.

We at Shelter Associates are thrilled to be supporting this event. Follow this link to be a part of the summit!

http://nswss.com/

Ask an Innovator: Shelter Associates

“Though change is inevitable, building upon lessons learned is a critical step to shape more effective solutions moving forward.”

The following is an article published on the Results for Development website.
We appreciate and thank them for the support given to us.

Ask an Innovator: Shelter Associates by Eva Adler

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”- William Pollard.

Though change is inevitable, building upon lessons learned is a critical step to shape more effective solutions moving forward. Not only do these conversations about past challenges cultivate better dialogues about innovation, most importantly, they catalyze new approaches to best tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.

Shelter Associates exemplifies this kind of innovation in the water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector. Shelter is a non-profit organization that works alongside the urban poor, particularly women, in Maharashtra, India to provide technical support to community-managed slum rehabilitation housing (including security of tenure), and essential services projects. One of the most innovative aspects of Shelter’s work is how geospatial data is integrated into the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process and verifies sanitation improvements across project sites.

Pratima Joshi, founder of Shelter, spoke to Results for Development (R4D) about a story of a success and of a challenge the organization has experienced since its founding in 1994, and most importantly, how they drew lessons from those experiences to develop their model for greater impact.

Story of a Success

One of the largest challenges facing Shelter, like many water-focused organizations, is the lack of in-country infrastructure and resources to effectively deliver WASH services to everyone. The Rajiv Gandhi Nagar Slum in Sinhagad, Pune, which is home to 87 households and some 329 people, offers a good example of a place where providing WASH services is challenging, due to its location and very poor population. Open defecation rates were particularly high in this slum due to technical challenges to build a sewer system on the rugged steep sloped terrain.
However, Shelter’s staff were undeterred to tackle the problem. When they started their work in the city of Pune, and the Rajiv Gandhi Nagar Slum, two key challenges were immediately obvious:

1) The lack of real time data to assess on-site realities and general knowledge of already existing infrastructures;

2) The city’s lack of proper consultation and collaboration with stakeholders during the process of installing community toilets in urban slums.

In order to overcome these challenges, Shelter Associates identified two key methods to accelerate and uplift local sanitation conditions. Its approach, unlike others, moved beyond providing basic sanitation structures and services, to included inclusive and cross-sectoral strategies to cultivate more innovative solutions.

To better understand on-site realities, Shelter Associates incorporated Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping software to accurately display spatial information across the slum (houses, sanitation facilities, and common defecation locations). Increased awareness of existing infrastructure in the Rajiv Gandhi Nagar Slum was a direct outcome of this addition. The project also increased knowledge of ground realities and the impact Shelter’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and education programs had across households. Greater data availability for the slum also meant more opportunities for the urban poor to participate in larger city planning agendas and decision-making processes.

To strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration, Shelter unified policy makers, local leaders, and regional non-profits (NGO’s) to inform the planning and implementation stages of the city’s urban slum community toilet initiatives. They facilitated community focused gatherings and inclusive workshops, which were well attended by women and children. Although a time intensive process, this enabled Shelter to strengthen personal relationships and trust with community members. This approach was the most successful method to enable community participation and most importantly, inform the urban slum management process.

Since the start of the project in 2013, GIS maps have pointed to improvements in the Rajiv Gandhi Nagar Slum – the prevalence of open defecation has fallen dramatically and now the slum is nearly 95% open defecation free. In a few years alone, Shelter has contributed to the 60% decrease in open defecation and given households the opportunity to live in improved sanitation conditions.

Pratima Joshi explains, “Now since Shelter’s intervention, the slum has been transformed from one of the worst living conditions in Pune, to a clean, more respectful place where people live safely and with dignity. People now feel less marginalized and more valued. They can see how Shelter and the government have undertaken a lot of trouble to help improve their lives.”
The Rajiv Gandhi Nagar Slum highlights an excellent case study of a project ‘win’. Even with immense challenges from the beginning, Shelter Associates identified barriers and overcame challenges in the slum. With determination and persistence, Shelter created innovative strategies and will continue to use these approaches in its future work.

Story of a Challenge

As Pratima Joshi from Shelter reflects upon organizational experiences, she recalls a particular story of a challenge or something that did not go as planned. She described this as a “lessons learned”.

In 2000, Shelter Associates participated in the Pune toilet project led by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and local non-profit organizations (NGO’s). The objective of the PMC was to build sustainable community toilets in the urban slums of Pune, however, mistakes were made along the way which Shelter has since learned from and applied into its own work going forward.
Pratima explains, “Various organizations were roped into building toilets within a limited time frame and led to many maintenance challenges in the community.”

The narrow focus of only building toilets in the urban slum led to weak community involvement. The inability to mobilize local leaders and community members created a capacity gap in the toilet program and hindered the implementation and sustainability of the program as planned.
Pratima recalls, “At the time, there wasn’t the capacity or time for us to properly assess existing infrastructure. There was also a lack of consultation and communication between the local councilor, the communities, and other partnering organizations.”

The lack of unification prevented the success of the city’s slum toilet initiative. Shelter took this lesson learned and made mobilization a non- negotiable step in its work. Since then, Shelter has integrated more urban slums community leaders and decision makers into the urban planning process and increased impact for on-site realities.

Though innovation and learning go hand in hand, Shelter Associates has learned that success and challenges never remain static. The ability to adapt and redirect after a challenge, or as Pratima puts it “lessons learned”, is a critical step to cultivate and implement innovative approaches in our ever changing world. Shelter Associates most of all, is an excellent example for other innovators to integrate lessons learned into organizational approaches to reach greater impact.

Happy Menstruation Day!

Menstruation, as natural a process as it is, never really turns out to be a topic discussed in groups or in most other forums–even in well off or middle class societies. Imagine the situation in low income communities: A girl getting her period for the first time asks her mother what it is. In reply she hears “Abhi tum badi ho gaye…bas ….har mahina aayega…pad use karo…aur is time mein puja mat karo aura char mat khao” (Now you have grown up….every month you are going to get it…just use pads…do not worship god and do not eat pickles). So instead of explaining that it is a natural process and how the entire menstrual cycle works and sharing pros and cons of menstrual hygiene, our girls just grow up with the knowledge that menstruation is a taboo and a 5-7 day punishment given to women, forcing them to refrain from various things (ranging from not washing their hair, not cooking, not eating sour things …. the list just continues). At the same time, if a girl does not start menstruating by 15, anxiety sets in as the sign of their fertility is missing. Having worked for 2 years in low income communities of Pune, the most sensitive section during Focus Group Discussions (FGD’s) involving adolescent girls and women, has always been on “menstruation.” In a particular slum in Pune (More Vasti, Sahakar Nagar Ward) a discussion with the girls which was supposed to last for an hour actually lasted for 3 hours as the girls didn’t want to let go of their opportunity for

Written by guest blogger, Farheen She has a masters degree in Social Work from University of Delhi. She is a Senior Social Worker at Shelter Associates.
Written by guest blogger, Farheen She has a masters degree in Social Work from University of Delhi. She is a Senior Social Worker at Shelter Associates.

talking and knowing about menstruation. For them it was the first time in their lives that somebody had even given them any forum to freely talk and deliberate about this topic. They had all kinds of questions: why does it happen, what to eat, what not to eat, how many times to change, what to do if I have an irregular cycle, what to do if I have recurrent stomach aches… As they heard answers to all of their questions, they could not stop giggling. The smiles on their faces remain etched in my memory still and will always remain. However, with women, a different aspect comes out: that of disposing the pad. As in most Community Toilet Blocks (CTBs), dumping of pads in the block, pads being tucked in the windows, and pads being thrown in the toilet pans is a very common sight. Very few women and girls actually practice proper disposal of pads (ideally where the pads are supposed to be wrapped in a newspaper and disposed in the garbage bin). Even those who have existing temporary enclosures or bathrooms used for urination known as “moris” in their houses have problems. During menstruation each time they urinate they have to clean it with phenyl as they fear any male member could end up seeing the “blood” stains. For many women and girls, changing the pads and dumping the same in the toilet block is the only option. They live in an 8’x8’ sized house with 5-7 members and there is no private enclosure. Some male or other member of the household could come in any moment. Changing their pad is probably the last thing which ever crosses their minds. This leads to deleterious impact on their hygiene and many suffer from urinary tract infections and rashes as they do not change their pads on time. But post an individual toilet and these problems just get eliminated on their own as for the first time these women and girls find privacy and “their own space” in this toilet that they can use it at their own convenience.

World of Difference

Shelter Associates were recently selected by the Vodafone Foundation for inclusion in their World of Difference program.  As participants of the program Shelter Associates will be receive a Vodafone employee as a volunteer for a period of 2 months.  The volunteer will assist Shelter Associates with public relations to support the One Home, One Toilet‘ initiative.

Women of Pure Wonder

One of Shelter Associates community workers, Noorjahan Kaladagi, was selected as one of the sixty extraordinary Indian women by the Vodafone Foundations and featured in their book ‘Women of Pure Wonder’.  Noorjahan was selected as one of the extraordinary India women as she has faced a disproportionate amount of difficulty and adversity in her life and has always prevailed.  She has become a respected leader in her community, whose integrity is very much intact, and an asset to Shelter Associates.

Click here to watch the full book launch.

AKPBS Book Launch, New Delhi

On 26th November 2013 the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS) launched a book which commemorates an event attended by Shelter Associates in December last year.  Shelter Associates wrote a paper for the publication which focussed on the concept of planning that provides the beneficiaries with access to the planning processes and, as a result, achieves permanent long-lasting change and social elevation to the poor; inclusive planning.

The book is called ‘Design for Everyone: Towards Sustainable Habitats’ and it’s ISBN is: 978-93-5137-746-7.

 

Portable toilets are tested in the slums

During June and July two different types of individual toilet, which were supplied by 3S Shramik, were tested in Khulewadi (29th June 2013) and Rajiv Gandhi Nagar (9th July 2013) as part of the city-wide slum sanitation project.  The two models were: (1) a polyethylene toilet and (2) a fibre reinforced plastic toilet (FRP).  The tests were conducted in relation to this project as both toilet types are one homogenous unit which can be delivered to site as one complete piece which would have obvious advantages for a project where 1,500 individual toilets are bing provided in pilot slums in each of the 15 administrative wards of the city over the next three years (2014, 2015 and 2016).

The tests showed that both systems can be installed within 6 hours, including the connection to the municipal drainage system and the necessary alterations to the slum huts to provide space to accommodate the toilet.  The main issue which arose with these types of toilet were associated with the ventilation of the space inside the toilet.  Revised designs are being worked out by Shelter Associates and 3S Shramik for another phase of tests.

Mobile App slum data entry trials begin

On 16th August 2013 Shelter Associates commence trials of the Shelter Associates survey mobile application.  Shelter Associates community workers took a tablet computer into the slums and tested the system of uploading slum data direct to the Shelter Associates on-line data collection system.

Shelter Associates have created city profiles for Pune and Sangli & Miraj which are hosted on the Shelter Associates website and are maintaned and updated by Shelter Associates on a regular basis.  Each city profile contains information for all slums within the municipal area including: the land ownership, development plan reservations, development plan zoning proposals, approximate area, population, location, topography, in addition to detailed data regarding services such as toilets, water, solid waste management, drainage and roads and access.  The information is freely available for everyone including city administrations.

To support the on-line city profiles, the NGO has developed an on-line survey system where all collected data can be input, and recently Shelter Associates has developed a mobile application which allows data to be uploaded to the on-line survey system by a surveyor with a smart phone in a slum, ward office, or any other location.

FILM: Inclusive Planning for the Urban Poor

This is a short film made by Shelter Associates about a city-wide approach to slum rehabilitation.  The film focuses on a project that is currently in progress in Sangli & Miraj (Maharashtra, India) under the Government of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Shelter Associates are an NGO who designed the project and adopted an approach to engage with all stakeholders at every stage of the project.  The film advocates that an inclusive approach, informed by a city-wide/holistic consciousness, and driven by an institutionalized monitoring system, is necessary to ensure tangible, long-lasting change, which results in the elevation of the quality of life of the urban poor.

 

Shelter Associates Community Worker Presents at Sumpurna Slum Seminar

On the17th and 18th December 2012 Shelter Associates attended the Sumpurna Slum Seminar in Balgandhrav (a theatre in Shivaji Nagar, Pune) and Yashada (a government training institution in Pune).  Shelter Associates short film ‘Shelter Associates: Inclusive Planning for the Urban Poor’ was played at the event and was followed by a speech by one of Shelter Associates community workers, Mrs. Noorjahan Kaladagi.  This community worker has been associated with Shelter Associates since 2001 and presented to the United Nations Women in Delhi last year (December 2011).  During her speech Mrs. Noorjahan Kaladagi spoke about her experience of working with the government to implement projects in slums in her peri-urban area and highlighted the importance of monitoring (such as regular progress meetings) being an integral part of the implementation process.