SPREADING THE IMPORTANCE OF HAND HYGIENE

Hands are the main pathways of germ transmission during health care. Hand hygiene is therefore the most important measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germs and prevent health care-associated infections – World Health Organisation

COVID19 is rampant worldwide , and the disease declared as a pandemic has played havoc across nations. We can stay away from it if everyone undertakes safe practices to prevent this disease. Being a contagious one, it can be transmitted by touch. Just like during an illness, though we take various medicines and remedies for it; the root of many of the diseases that afflict us is in our unclean hands. 

Shelter Associates, an NGO based in Pune has been working actively in the informal settlements of Maharashtra to transform the lives of the urban poor through the provision of sanitation and hygiene since 1994. Realizing the need to provide relief during the World’s worst hit pandemic and ensuring the well-being of communities during this time, Shelter Associates have been partnering with global organisations to work towards a universal goal of a COVID free nation.

COMMUNITY MOBILISATION AROUND HAND WASHING

The objective of all of SA initiatives is not only to implement projects but to realise tangible positive change in the quality of the lives of the most vulnerable citizens. Mobilising communities has been one of the greatest strengths of Shelter Associates. Carefully strategised data driven planning helps us to have contextualised, meaningful discussions with slum residents through various awareness activities with women, children, adolescent girls, boys and men to bring about a behavioural change and thus develop good habits. In recent times, hand washing has gained greater significance and to inculcate that habit, SA conducts hand washing activities through hand wash demonstration songs and informal games such as snake & ladder and maze activity customised to impart knowledge on COVID19 and hand washing. Spatial maps are developed by SA to help community volunteers organise mobilisation and engage communities from different slum pockets. 

Sing-along Hand wash demonstration
Sing-along Hand wash demonstration
Informal activity games
Informal activity games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISTRIBUTION OF 5 LAKH SOAPS TO FRONTLINE WORKERS

Shelter Associates has been working with UNICEF India since August 2020 to facilitate its ‘Flush the Virus’ program in selected COVID19 affected slums of Pune, Thane and Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra, India. The partnership involves installation of pedal operated hand wash stations near community toilets in slums, awareness on safe use of community facilities, encouraging the use of household Toilets, mobilizing  communities on COVID19 prevention & 100% mask use.

Girl from the community holding soaps
Girl from the community holding soaps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelter Associates has further joined the cause with UNICEF in providing support to selected slums and municipal corporations of Pune, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Panvel and Kolhapur to combat the pandemic around WASH by inculcating the habit of handwashing. 

With support from Hindustan Unilever Ltd., 5 lakh Moti soaps have been distributed to COVID warriors including front line workers, ragpickers, sanitary and healthcare workers and slum households where there was a high prevalence of the pandemic.

This will definitely be both a public awareness and health protection initiative for the cleaning staff and the slum dwellers who are working as sanitation envoys. Therefore, I truly thank Hindustan Lever, UNICEF and Shelter Associates, says Sudhakar Deshmukh, Panvel Municipal Commissioner.

Distributing soaps to slum families
Distributing soaps to slum families

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soaps given to sanitation workers
Soaps given to sanitation workers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soaps given to Municipal Corporations
Soaps given to Municipal Corporations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GLOBAL HAND WASH DAY 2020

October 15 is celebrated around the world as ‘World Handwashing Day’ to raise awareness about hand hygiene. Shelter Associates, UNICEF and various Municipal Corporations have jointly celebrated the day in the informal settlements of Maharashtra.

Municipal Corporations have jointly celebrated the day in the informal settlements of Maharashtra. The slum settlements of 4 cities of Maharashtra namely Laxmi nagar, Vadarwadi and Ambedkar nagar in Pune; Chinchpada in Navi Mumbai; Lokmanya nagar in Thane; and Kanan Nagar in Kolhapur were selected to conduct various awareness activities around the Global Hand Wash Day. A week-long celebration was underway in these settlements from 12th to 16th October 2020

Global Handwash Week
Global Handwash Week

Based on the Global Hand washing Theme, various competitions organized were:

  • Rangoli competition
  • Poster making competition
  • Essay competition
  • Slogan writing competition
  • Video making competition 
  • Poem writing competition
  • Live hand wash demonstrations
  • Awareness Rally
Poster Making Competition
Poster Making Competition
Awareness Rally on hand washing
Awareness Rally on hand washing
Rangoli Competition
Rangoli Competition
Hand washing demonstrations to children
Hand washing demonstrations to children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health talk by Medical Officers
Health talk by Medical Officers

The program in different slums were visited by the respective Municipal Corporation officials, sanitary officers along with Shelter Associates representatives. Over 2000 individuals were impacted directly and indirectly through the Global Hand wash Week celebration.

Clean hands are essential to health, whether in an emergency or day-to-day life. The importance of hand washing has been further elevated by the fact that COVID19 has  spread all over the country. Therefore to protect our communities and provide relief to these COVID warriors and vulnerable slum families, Shelter Associates encourages good hand washing habits through awareness campaigns, live demonstrations, competitions and soap distribution.

PROTECTING COMMUNITIES THROUGH SAFE SANITATION

Pratima Joshi reflects on the work of Shelter Associates during the COVID-19 pandemic the vulnerability of slum settlements

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our worlds upside down. The most adverse effect is seen on the well-being of the weaker sections of the society residing in the informal settlements. The present condition demands a major focus on health and hygiene, as there are innumerable slum families who still have issues accessing safe sanitation.

Shelter Associates, an NGO providing sanitation and housing for the urban slums of Maharashtra, has facilitated over 20,000 individual household toilets to the slum communities and continues its efforts even in the pandemic situation.

Using spatial data in communities
Volunteers using spatial maps in the community

While the present focus is inevitably on health and sanitation, Pune’s densely populated Laxmi Nagar slum in the Kothrud neighborhood has emerged as the newest COVID-19 hotspot due to inadequate space for social distancing and lack of proper clean toilets.

The slum houses 1,087 families, primarily serving as construction workers and housemaids. Based on the previous slum data generated by Shelter Associates in 2018, 43 percent of families had no individual toilets and were dependent entirely on community toilets, which meant that for each toilet block, 40 people were using it. On the flip side, 57 percent of families had their own toilets, out of which 55 percent were unusable due to insufficient and poorly maintained drainage lines*. In such a scenario, there was huge pressure on the community toilets, which were overused and poorly maintained, which posed a health threat to the inhabitants using them.

Swati Vairage, a resident of Laxmi Nagar, whose two young children have survived the COVID-19 virus, feels the dire need for an individual household toilet. “I don’t want me or my children to go out to the community toilet again,” says Swati.

Responding to the grief of Swati and many others at Laxmi Nagar, Shelter Associates has initiated its “One Home One Toilet” cost-sharing model. It provides people toilet construction materials free of cost at their doorstep with the beneficiary families investing in its construction.

The Pune Municipal Corporation’s lack of funds for laying additional drainage lines or clearing the existing lines did not diminish the hopes of the residents who decided to work proactively to improvise the situation. They voluntarily invested in laying an additional 40ft drainage pipeline and contributed money toward getting the drainage lines cleaned with a collective motto to get their home toilets ready for use and make provisions for those who are yet to build one.

Local resident Balu Dandekar has been instrumental in easing the entire implementation process: from identifying families that need individual toilets to liaising with the urban local bodies and police to get permission to enter the containment zone. His influence and active cooperation at every step enabled Shelter Associates to continue its efforts and also build a good rapport with the residents.

Spatial map of lazmi Nagar, Pune
Spatial map of laxmi Nagar, Pune

To date, over 102 individual household toilets have been facilitated at Laxmi Nagar, while many more await material distribution. Laxmi Nagar sets an example to all other slum communities as we see a positive change through the willingness of the community and the involved NGO whose joint efforts facilitated a cleaner and safer living amidst the most traumatic situation prevailing around. More so, we see a behavioral change among people who now recognize the importance and are demanding a household toilet as opposed to the age-old notion of defecating away from their homes. Shelter Associates hope to improve the sanitation situation of the residents of Laxmi Nagar and all other communities who are already living in extreme conditions waiting for help to reach their doorsteps.

*Data derived through Rapid Household Survey conducted by Shelter Associates

The article is published on the web portal of Salzburg Global Seminar
https://www.salzburgglobal.org/news/opinions/article/protecting-communities-through-safe-sanitation 
(Pratima Joshi is a Salzburg Global Fellow who is currently taking part in the Japan-India Transformative Technology Network, a program held in partnership with the Nippon Foundation)

TACKLING COVID19 WITH DATA

One of the major concerns of the Covid19 pandemic is the emerging hotspots in slum areas of big cities. As the deadly virus is spreading at an alarming speed in the state of Maharashtra, it can spread very rapidly in the low-income, high density settlements having low disease immunity and inadequate medical facilities. These settlements form an integral and important part of the city’s economy and a breakout of the pandemic in these communities will have a cascading effect which can lead to its spread at all strata of society. Lack of granular data on slums hamper governments from systematic monitoring and tracking the spread of this virus and then fighting and mitigating this pandemic. It is now even more necessary that we have a good tracking mechanism in place when it comes to individual households in slums.

Shelter Associates (SA), an NGO based in Pune who actively works on Sanitation and Housing for the urban slums of Maharashtra, with a recent milestone achievement of facilitation of over 20,000 individual household toilets for the slum families; has invested in creating spatial data on slums of 7 cities of Maharashtra in the last 2 decades and made mapping of slum data a vital component of its work. SA has demonstrated how this data can become an excellent planning tool to effectively deliver essential services like water, sanitation, housing etc. Through the medium of GIS mapping, infrastructural mapping and individual household surveys, Shelter Associates has created a strong database of slum communities and families and has now proved to be a boon in facilitating various relief campaigns helping the vulnerable families during the Covid19 outbreak. The data is also shared with the various Municipal Corporations of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Kolhapur, Thane, Navi-Mumbai and Panvel who can use our granular data as an excellent planning tool to effectively deliver essential services. In addition to that, the concerned Government authorities can identify the households with Corona positive patients and as an immediate step can create a buffer of families around that house who will need to be screened. “Through the data and slum maps generated by Shelter Associates, it has become very easy for us to identify and track the slum families at this crucial hour”, says Mr. Nilkanth Dhondiram Poman, Chief IT Officer, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation.

Example of how spatial data can help to plan strategically track the cases and high-risk houses in the buffer. A house in red colour shows the house of a suspected patient and houses in pink are high risk houses and families from those houses might be required to screen.
Example of how spatial data can help to plan strategically track the cases and high-risk houses in the buffer. A house in red colour shows the house of a suspected patient and houses in pink are high risk houses and families from those houses might be required to screen.

 

As a direct relief, Shelter Associates plans and conducts community outreach through telephonic campaigns to create awareness within the slum communities in not only educating the people on Covid19 and its prevention, but also busting the various myths and misconceptions surrounding the virus. The callers are also made aware of Emergency helpline numbers where they can easily reach out for help. Moreover, through a comprehensive analysis of the slum data, Shelter Associates has identified vulnerable slum communities in Maharashtra and have extended support through the distribution of Hygiene kits and Essential Food Grains. With the support of external funders, SA has strategically distributed hygiene kits comprising sanitizer, face masks, soaps and phenyl to 750 slum families in Pune, 850 families in Kolhapur, 550 families in Panvel and 150 cleanliness workers and policemen in Thane. At the same time, SA distributed food grains to 430 families in Pune and 20 families in Miraj. For that, SA has identified and trained volunteers from the community who work tirelessly along with the SA team to provide relief to the communities. It is an ongoing effort and till date, over 11800 individuals are facilitated with the Hygiene items and Food grains in selected slums of Pune, Kolhapur, Thane, Panvel and Miraj, Maharashtra.

Shelter Associates team ready for action
Shelter Associates team ready for action

Hygiene kit being packed for distribution

Cleanliness workers provided with essential hygiene items
Cleanliness workers provided with essential hygiene items
Distribution of dry ration to the needy families
Distribution of dry ration to the needy families

“Shelter Associates has been helping poor people like us even during this corona crisis. The materials such as masks, soaps, phenyl provided to us are very useful and essential for maintaining good health and hygiene as the disease will spread very quickly in the settlement”, says Meena Sontakke from Yadav nagar vasti, Kolhapur.

On the whole, spatial data is useful for organizations like governments, businesses, and humanitarian agencies to locate the slum households for the facilitation of services and welfare schemes and to enhance the ability of public and government authorities to plan, manage and develop the service system matrix.

http://shelter-associates.org/covid-19 

A UNITED NATIONS HONOUR

According to UNICEF, 2 billion people across the world still do not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets or latrines. Of these, 673 million defecate in the open. Open defecation is a problem because it allows for high-potential of bacteria being transferred through feces leading to large-scale health problems. Moreover, open defecation also inflicts safety concerns on women, causes distress to the elderly and disabled and poses environmental risks.*

Despite several parts of India being declared as open defecation free, hygienic sanitation continues to be a problem in the country.  A study conducted in 2018 showed that residents of between 30-70% of urban slums in India in fact did not have access to safe and convenient toilets**

Recognizing the problems posed by open defecation as well as community toilets that have their own set of disadvantages; Shelter Associates (SA), a Pune based NGO providing safe sanitation and affordable housing to the urban poor focuses on facilitating individual household toilets through its data driven, replicable, scalable and multi-stakeholder inclusive ‘One Home One Toilet’ (OHOT) model.

The Local Project Challenge, a collaboration between academic and social organizations, has honored Shelter Associate’s ‘One Home One Toilet’ initiative with the LPC Honour Award 2020 at the U.N.-Habitat World Urban Forum 10 in Abu Dhabi.

The World Urban Forum, organized by UN-Habitat, “is the foremost international gathering for exchanging views and experiences on sustainable urbanization. The inclusive nature of the Forum, combined with high-level participation, makes it a unique United Nations conference and the premier international gathering on urban issues”.

Local Project Challenge_Honor Award

The project was presented for the Civil Society category, announced as part of the “Accelerating the SDGs through the Local Project Challenge” seminar. The Local Project Challenge is a partnership between the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at The Earth Institute, Columbia University and the Faculty of Architecture, Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, and builds on the Global Studio and People Building Better Cities programs.

Coming straight from the director of the Local Project Challenge, Dr. Anna Rubbo says “Congratulations on your Local Project Challenge Honor Award. We hope the award helps support your excellent work”

An international panel of judges reviewed the 110 organisations under the categories of Civil Society, Education and Professional and honored Shelter Associates under the Civil Society category. The list of awardees can be viewed here: https://localprojectchallenge.org/awards/

The “One Home One Toilet” project fits in perfectly with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”. OHOT facilitates toilets that are not only well-designed but have also proven to be long-term solutions to the problem of open defecation, thus actively contributing to SDG Goal6.

 The Local Project Challenge featuring ‘One Home One Toilet’ model is available here:
https://localprojectchallenge.org/one-home-one-toilet-tacking-defecation-with-data/

w

References:

* https://data.unicef.org/topic/water-and-sanitation/sanitation/
** https://www.fsg.org/publications-and-tools

 

Sharing the Knowledge of Data Technology

Why is data and technology important? Is it better to make planned interventions with the presence of updated data? The answer however is a definite YES as more in-depth information is useful for better policy-making or effective service delivery for any government, non-government as well as private organization.

Analyzing gathered data can determine gaps in delivery of services, improve policies and make budgetary provisions while allowing governments to boost their economy faster and in a sustainable manner.

Shelter Associates, a non-profit organisation facilitating improved sanitation and housing for the urban poor of Maharashtra, pioneered the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology & Google Earth for poverty mapping in late 90’s. Holistic spatial data was created by mapping settlement patterns and infrastructure in and around slums. These GIS Maps help ensure that the requisite infrastructure (sewage pipes or septic tanks) and toilets are provided in the right location, keeping in mind topography, road access conditions, family characteristics and neighborhood. The mapping is supplemented with survey data collected at the household level and analyzed to identify the most vulnerable population and plan targeted interventions.

Pratima Joshi highlighting on the importance of data mapping
Pratima Joshi highlighting on the importance of data mapping
Data experts at Shelter Associates share spatial data knowledge through a workshop with Sanitary Inspectors and Engineers at various Municipal Corporations of cities where the ‘One Home One Toilet’ sanitation model is put to practice.

The main aim of the training workshop is to (a) make the Urban Local Bodies understand the use of data effectively in day-to-day activities (b) minimize potential gaps in service delivery in the fields of sanitation, education, health, etc. (c) train the officials to read and use spatial maps for other service delivery.

Data training held at Thane Municipal Corporation
Data training held at Thane Municipal Corporation

Shelter Associates foster strategic partnerships with the Urban Local Bodies in the cities where they operate and as a part of this inclusive approach, the data knowledge is shared within the city municipal corporation who could carry out more micro-level interventions without having to rely on inadequate secondary data. By the end of the training workshop, they can read the maps generated by SA, toggle the different data parameters provided, and get a sense of how to leverage the data for better community development.

Making the complex: simple – Kobo Toolbox improves efficiency in data collection

Recording data on TabletShelter Associates (SA) has been providing housing and sanitation to the urban poor fr over 23 years. Since 2010, individual sanitation has been delivered in a structured and focused manner in vulnerable slums. The process of facilitating household toilets was initiated with extensive data collection and analysis at each stage. The collected data formed the foundation of a pragmatic approach, ensuring feasibility of interventions, as well as an efficient and optimum use of funds. The data collection is carried out with help of the following surveys:

  • Rapid Infrastructure Mapping – mapping of existing infrastructure of slum
  • Rapid Infrastructure factsheet – profiling of slum
  • Rapid Household Surveys – collecting household level data
  • Individual factsheet – for maintaining record of completed toilets

SA used a web-based application for data entry and creating reports (using collected data) and an android app for data collection of the above mentioned surveys. Data collection is an ongoing process. With the expansion of our operations in new cities, the survey forms and data collection systems need a continuous update. It was possible to modify the existing platform too, but very little. SA and its IT partner Soft-Corner were thus exploring new ways to incorporate the requirement. Meanwhile, Mr. Donald Lobo suggested an open source platform called Kobo Toolbox for defining and deploying surveys and for collecting data.
KoboToolbox, a set of open source software tools, seemed quite suitable for our requirements. Soft-Corner also verified it by running a few tests on it for the same. SA has started its work in a new city recently – Navi Mumbai – where Kobo Toolbox is being used for data collection and entry. We have found it pretty user friendly and time saving while also allowing customization. Our initial experience in using this new tool was very good.

  • Benefits at a glance
    Mobile application
    The survey can be deployed on mobile devices very easily
    The entered data can be edited
    The earlier app allowed uploading of responses one at a time. This allows all at one go (or one or multiple by choosing which ones to upload)
    Web application
    A lot of options in the definition of different types of questions – including validation rules and skip patterns, save time on the field and increase the accuracy of the data collected.
    Grouping questions enable us to view them on a single page.
    Repetition of a set of questions is possible, based on a value (for example – if there are 3 community toilets, then the same set of questions about the community toilets are asked 3 times – once for each community toilet)
    Data can be viewed and edited in code or label format
    Data downloading in various formats is possible.We can also view and download photos captured using the mobile app
    Data analysis is made easier
  • Challenges
    Here is a wish list of what more we would have liked
    1. We cannot add a question to the existing form and if we do, we have to redeploy it and redeployment means losing existing data.
    2. As far as our understanding, there is no provision of having long integer data type
    Skip patterns cannot be given based on the values of certain options of a question
    3. The exported excel needs formatting. (-).
    4. There seems to be no provision to auto copy a field from the previous response – like the slum name. If we have to enter 50 responses, each time we have to enter the slum name.)
    5. There seems to be no provision for re-edits from the mobile device after uploading the data to the server. This could potentially lead to a problem. For example – if we have uploaded the data of household number 23 (improperly) and at some later date, I enter the correct 23, we cannot edit the previously uploaded data from the mobile device. we have to do it from the web module.
    6. When a response is entered on the mobile device for a survey form, it asks for a name by which it would save the response on the mobile device. However, there is no format or validation rule that can be given for this name – which essentially means that each data person collecting the data can give the name of their choice. It would be more organized if we could give a pattern to force the naming in a certain way. Or alternatively, if we can pick some field(s) from the current response (like household number and the status) and show that as the default name to save the response, it would be very convenient.
    7. The above mentioned name (by which the response is saved on the mobile device) is not available eventually – both at the back end and in the exported data. Its use is only till we upload the data. If that name is available for the record that could help.

Women Power Acknowledged!

It was a significant moment when 3 women from the Sanjay Park vasahat (colony) from Pune city were felicitated by the Vimaan Nagar Residents Association (VNRA) on this year’ International Women’ day for the extra-ordinary feat of showcasing their presence in a dynamic environment wherein they had contributed immensely in the social sector in the Nagar road ward. VNRA is an organization which takes the note of contribution of women in the society and motivates them by providing them a platform whereupon they can further develop their abilities. It was a wonderful experience for Mrs. Surekha Borkar, Mrs. Nisha Sasane, and Mrs. Yashoda Manjalkar who bagged the prestigious award from their neighborhood community as a token of appreciation.

It was understood that the water supply to the Sanjay Park colony was disconnected in the last week. It took no more than few minutes for Mrs. Borkar to get hold of the stock and then march to the ward office for lodging a formal complaint. Based on her proactive steps, the authorities were forced to appreciate the complaint and restore the water supply within few hours. The quintessential part of this moment was the display of raw but well-controlled courage by the women of Sanjay Park, and hence such actions give justice to the recognition which they received on the special occasion of Women’ day.

It is widely acknowledged that the International Women’ day marks the occasion on which women, all over the world,  are respected, appreciated, and loved for their political, economic, and social achievements. However, not limiting to just one day (8th March), it should be held, i.e. celebrated and lived for all 365 days and the invisible patriarchal attitude behind any “unjust felicitations” should be unanimously resisted and such individuals or groups should be immediately dis-empowered.

Blog written by Gaurav, Senior Social worker with Shelter Associates

“One Home, One Toilet” and thousand possibilities to built it!

toilets

As a volunteer architect at Shelter Associates, I was interested in observing how the urban poor live in Pune. As part of the “One Home, One Toilet” project, I also wanted to see what impacts the construction of an individual toilet had on small spaces and what percentage of space in a house was dedicated to daily personal hygiene.
In order to determine this impact, I began to measure randomly selected houses: 61 houses from 4 slums in which Shelter Associates is/ has been active – Prem Nagar and Rajiv Gandhi Nagar in Pune, Rajendra Nagar in Kolhapur and Idgah Nagar in Sangli/Miraj – were included in this sample. While taking these measurements, I gathered information about how space in the house was used before the construction of the toilet and how much money the family spent on the construction of the toilet and on other improvements to the house.

From then on, I didn’t go into the field without my tape measure and I always insisted on understanding how space within the home was utilized before and after the construction of the individual toilet.

The houses included in my sample measure, by average, 212 sq ft (19.7 m2) and are occupied by an average of approximately 4.6 people; this means that one person has only 46 sq ft (4.3 m2) at his or her disposal.

Due to limited interior space, I noticed that slum dwellers use the space in front of their doors as the extension of their homes. Indeed, lots of activities take place in the streets, from clothes washing to grain sorting. It is also a place to chat with family members or neighbors and a playground for children.

Most of the households for which Shelter Associates provided material to build an individual toilet had a bathroom in their home prior to construction of their toilet. These bathrooms were used purely as washrooms, while defecation took place in community toilet blocks.

From my investigations, I discovered that before Shelter Associates’ intervention, the bath area measured an average of 15 sq ft (1.4 m2) and occupied 7% of the house; after intervention, the newly-built toilet and bathroom area measured 29 sq ft (2.7 m2) and took up 13.5 % of the house area. Despite the small size of their houses, Shelter beneficiaries were willing to devote more space within their home for an individual toilet.

Moreover, I found that, while the average monthly income of the selected households is Rs. 10,600, the beneficiaries spent an average of Rs. 29,000 on toilet construction and home renovations. This amount of money includes labor charges and extra material needed, like tiles, bricks and cement.

In the settlements I visited, the bathroom was usually a space inside the house defined by a half-length or full-length brick wall. In order to provide additional privacy, metal containers were sometimes stacked on top of half-length walls or a curtain was hung over the door opening. In most cases, the new toilet was an enclosed space – Shelter Associates considers the toilet complete only if it has a door – built at the location of the former bathroom and combining a bath area and a toilet. However, the bathroom space and the toilet could also be located in separate spaces. In fact, toilets have different dimensions and are equipped differently according to each house’s size and layout as well as household’s needs and financial means. That is what makes visiting so many houses in different settlements so fun!

 The former bathroom and the new combined toilet and bathroom.
     The former bathroom and the new combined toilet and bathroom.

During my field visits, I was struck by how every informal settlement is different depending on its surroundings and its location within the city. Prem Nagar, for instance, is a settlement located in the city center of Pune, squeezed between the Market Yard and housing complexes, and is organized lengthways along access roads. All houses in the settlement are pucca or semi-pucca – houses built of hard material like bricks – and the house improvements resulting from the construction of the toilet were in most cases only inside of the house to be seen.

 

Rajiv Gandhi Nagar – a settlement located in a peri-urban area alongside the Mula Mutha river – was composed exclusively of kutcha houses – houses built of impermanent material like tin sheets – before Shelter Associates’ intervention. Construction of individual toilets brought major changes to people’s lives, as it provided the impetus for households to rebuild homes using bricks and concrete (pucca) material. These improvements bring additional comfort in everyday life, not only because the household now has access to their own toilet, but also because pucca walls provide greater protection from rain, wind and heat. In some houses, meals were prepared on the floor as the household wasn’t equipped with a kitchen platform. These households took advantage of the construction work to build a kitchen platform. You’ll probably be surprised as well at the outstanding creativity some of the inhabitants showed in the building process!

nice toilets

While most households in Prem Nagar and in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar constructed a single space for both the bathroom and the toilet, in Rajendra Nagar and Idgah Nagar, some households constructed separate spaces. To my surprise, while the bathroom was accessible from the inside of the house, many residents chose to construct access to the toilet exclusively from the outside of the house. It is a choice that might not make sense for some of us, especially considering the pouring rain the area gets during rainy season. Slum dwellers, however, often have hygienic concerns about constructing a toilet inside their homes. Some of them, for example, fear the bad smell that could result in the use of the toilet. In Prem Nagar, some inhabitants told me they were afraid that rodents might crawl out of the toilet pan or that the drainage line might get choked. Some residents also thought that it was unhygienic to eat and cook next to the toilet. The households that were already using their toilet didn’t report any problems, however, and they were happy with the new facility.

In Idgah Nagar, a middle-aged woman said that even though she had constructed a toilet in her house two months earlier, which her children use, she had yet to use the toilet. After defecating in the open for 40 years – the settlement doesn’t have any community toilet blocks – , she had not yet adapted to having a toilet in her home. However, she said that she used the toilet at her work place without problems.

It has been observed that slum dwellers – especially adults – who are used to defecating in the open or using the community toilet blocks, will need up to two months to start using the toilet. That’s why Shelter Associates tries to encourage people to use the toilet by talking about the issue in focused group discussion with the community and by organizing street plays on the topic.

In Idgah Nagar, I heard several other interesting stories. One family explained that construction of the toilet had brought the wife and children back to the house. The wife didn’t want to live with her husband because his house didn’t have a toilet. She came back to her husband’s house with their two children immediately after completion of the toilet. Another family decided to build a brick house equipped with a toilet in place of the bamboo house they had been living in: their son was able to get married because of the nice house they now lived in.

Providing the urban poor with the opportunity to construct an individual toilet isn’t only about improving sanitary conditions in slums; it is also about inspiring residents to make other positive improvements to their lives and their homes! It is about fostering creativity and empowering the urban poor.

If you would like to know more about the “One Home, One Toilet” project, please check out our flyers on the website for more interesting stories.

It only remains for me to thank Reshma, Aishwarya, Pradeep, Dhananjay, Mohan, Noorjahan and Shubah from Shelter Associates for accompanying me in the field and for translating from Marathi to English. Thanks to Moira for proofreading my texts. Finally, I also would like to express my gratitude to the whole Shelter Associates team for their kindness and for giving me the opportunity to do these very interesting investigations.

Blog written by guest blogger, Laurence Beuchat.

Laurence

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/

Seems like it’s time to grow young again!

Blog post by guest blogger Chinmay Katke.

On 1st August, the birth anniversary of Late Annabhau Sathe, in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, Pimple Gurav, we witnessed a very innovative program which saw community children coming together to raise awareness regarding the necessity of individual toilets and hygiene. As a new volunteer at Shelter Associates, I was thrilled at the prospect of working with these children. I had never worked with children from slum settlements before that day and the experience that I underwent will never be forgotten. A member of a small team of three, I was really excited to have gotten the opportunity to take a peek into these eager minds.

The workshop began with an awareness rally where kids promoted health, hygiene & cleanliness by holding placards and urging elder people to join them. Then a ‘Baal-Panchaayat’ was arranged where kids were engaged in conversation with the authorities in charge. PCMC Chief Engineer, Mr. Sanjay Kulkarni, Pimple Gurav Police Inspector, Mr. Shinde and Shabana Diler of Shelter Associates, aptly answered all the daring queries raised by the young minds. After the serious discussion, the kids enjoyed a drawing competition where they poured their fresh ideas onto paper with the right competitive spirit. Later we conducted an exercise where kids painted the plastered walls of newly built individual toilets by Shelter Associates with different murals. I felt like I had been thrown back into my childhood for those two hours. The program ended with everyone enjoying tasty snacks. I was overcome with a feeling of content.

There were a few moments that caught my attention during the busy day. During the Panchaayat a 7 year old young lady held the mic and urged everyone to not call her settlement, a zopadpatti (slum). We could see they had strong faith, that even through the difficulties, there is a way out with all of us working together. The drawing competition also was a clear reflection of their views about the entire issue. Finally, when the kids had a moment of self-evaluation after a busy day of having fun, we saw the determination to bring the desired change in their bright eyes. As grownups, it’s often difficult to explain something to adults, but the kids absorbed issues very quickly while teaching us a lot. Here is an essence of the discussions that kids had with the authorities…

Open defecation and the diseases spread by its improper treatment is a problem that causes discomfort on daily basis. This becomes a major crisis due to the lack of awareness about the topic. While the Government and Administration are trying their best to make the basic amenities available to all, some efforts at the individual or group level are essential. NGOs like Shelter Associates play a vital role in mobilizing people towards a better cause. Mr. Kulkarni insisted everyone on participating in Shelter’s “One Home One Toilet” scheme to see the community liberated from the years old malpractices and the evil cycle that follows.

The zeal and passion that the children showed on that day really moved me. Their little voices contained so much weight that it made me truly understand what our dear artiste Pablo Picasso always told us.. “Every child is an artist. The problem is to stay one while growing up..”

Seems like it’s time to grow young again!