Why celebrate Toilets?

Talking about toilets is really uncomfortable but we at Shelter Associates do just that – we not only talk about Toilets but also help underprivileged people build one. According to UN-Water, 15% of people in the world don’t have access to a toilet. Every day, over 700 children in India under five year old die from diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene. Toilet at home means menstruating girls, elderly and disabled people do not have to face the indignity of relieving outside. Have you ever imagined yourself living without a toilet? Life without a toilet at home is dirty, inconvenient, dangerous and undignified.

Clean and decorated toilet at Shramik Nagar, Pune.

Tackling the global sanitation crisis and achieving sustainable development goal #6, we need to provide water and sanitation for all by 2030. Despite the fact that sanitation is a recognized human right by the United Nations, there is an urgent need for a massive investment and innovation to quadruple progress all along the sanitation chain, from toilets to the transportation, collection, and treatment of human waste. The main theme of U.N-Water this year is valuing toilets. The main aim is to focus on the underfunded, poorly managed parts of the world, mostly with disastrous repercussions for health, economy, and the environment, particularly in the poorest and most vulnerable families. Shelter Associates started working on sanitation  in Maharashtra even before sanitation started drawing the attention of the Government of India. In 2013 Shelter Associates started the landmark project, “One Home One Toilet”, to deliver household toilets to the families at informal settlements on a cost-sharing basis.

Blessed to have a toilet at home.

According to the Government Of India, India is the largest open defecating nation in the world, where almost 15 percent of the total population have no access to sanitation which has a detrimental impact on the health, education, financial security, and safety of people living in informal communities. SA facilitates access to sanitation in informal settlements by: (1) setting up a very robust spatial data platform to pinpoint families who lack access to basic sanitation, (2) facilitating the construction of household toilets, (3) conducting various behavioral change activities to increase awareness within the community and (4) providing a forum for discussing sanitation issues.

On the occasion of World Toilet Day on 19th November 2021, Shelter Associates celebrated the milestone of completion of 24000+ individual toilets in various informal settlements of Pune, Thane, Kolhapur and Navi Mumbai along with the completion of the 100th individual toilet in Shramik Vasahat community in the Vishrantwadi ward of Pune. Present at the event were different dignitaries from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and local leaders from the area. 

Drawings made by children.

Often neglected are the ones who keep our community toilets safe and sanitized, such caretakers of community toilets from the 4 cities were felicitated as ‘Sanitation Warriors’ by the esteemed guests. Their efforts and years of hard work were appreciated by all. The day was marked with events to increase awareness of sanitation issues. Members from various informal settlements of Pune, Thane, Kolhapur and Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporations participated in the Toilet decoration competition, drawing competition, musical chairs, ‘Majhi galli, Swachh galli’ initiative and other events related to sanitation. 

Felicitation of “Sanitation Warriors”.

These joint efforts of community members, Government officials of the 4 Municipal Corporations, and Shelter Associates team were lauded by all guests as a model worth emulating for other communities. Sustained dedication and commitment by all stakeholders alone can help us achieve our Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of clean water and adequate sanitation for all by 2030. 

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GIS DATA IN VACCINATION DRIVE

COVID19 is still stalking the world and the urban poor residing in informal settlements are struggling to get vaccinated. There are various misconceptions and myths regarding COVID19,and hence there is a pressing need for widespread awareness campaigns to dispel these fears. There is a paucity of information related to vaccination processes which has resulted in low vaccine coverage in slum communities. As a result, it is often assumed that residents in informal settlements are reluctant to receive vaccinations. More than 75% of individuals living in the slums of Pune, Kolhapur, Thane and Navi Mumbai who are above 18 years old are eager to get vaccinated, according to Shelter Associates’ household level survey results. However, vaccination coverage is low. The stumbling block is the online registration process and vaccine availability. In Maharashtra only 30% of the population is vaccinated for the first dose and only 1/3rd of them is vaccinated with the second dose. The lack of adherence to Covid Appropriate Behavior(CAB) guidelines, combined with a lower level of vaccination coverage, are key contributors to the rise of COVID-19 infection in the state. Our focus should be on an effective community-based behavioral change strategy that clears up any vaccination misunderstandings and facilitates online registrations along with community vaccination camps, as well as promoting CAB.

In house GIS Analyst working on informal settlement

Shelter Associates’ In-house GIS Data and field teams play a very important role in driving the vaccination process. The process followed by the team are as below:

  • The team of GIS Analysts map the selected slums of the 4 cities of Maharashtra with the help of a GIS based software. 
  • Plus Codes (Digital addresses codes) are generated for each house 
  • On-field community workers at Shelter Associates physically visit each and every slum house and collect raw data through household surveys covering the vaccination details and the families interested for vaccination
  • After this process, the data is integrated on a GIS platform and spatially queried. .

The spatial maps generated by the GIS team include details of the number of people who have completed their vaccinations and those who are left behind. Accordingly, detailed planning is done to drive the vaccination camp. Shelter Associates plan on how things can be taken forward to drive the vaccination process smoothly. To register the unregistered for the first dose of vaccine, volunteers residing in slum communities are trained so that none of them are missed out and all get vaccinated. 

Vaccination Tokens are been distributed

Once the slum pocket gets finalised, the community co-ordinators at Shelter Associates distribute tokens to the registered individuals. These tokens are then presented at the time of Vaccination Camps for a smooth implementation of the vaccination process. Upon further cross-verification, the pre-registered and spot registered individuals are inoculated by the health officers present during the camp.

Till September 2021, Shelter Associates helped more than 4431 people get vaccinated in Pune and Kolhapur through 16 and 9 vaccination camps respectively. Shelter Associates is making full efforts to raise awareness around the importance of vaccination  through a rigorous process of primary surveys and data collation, mobilizing the community people and setting up vaccination camps.

Spatial Map of Ganjimal Settlement (Kolhapur) post vaccination

This map is created through spatial data, post vaccination of Ganjimal Settlement of Kolhapur Municipal Corporation. Shelter Associates is rigorously  working on the other slums to cater the needy and help them get vaccinated through ground level survey and setting up vaccination camps.

TO BE VACCINATED OR NOT

COVID-19 VACCINATION DRIVE BY SHELTER ASSOCIATES

While the world is looking forward to the best possible remedy to COVID19 through vaccinations, the fact remains that this vaccine comes with its own set of myths and misinformation. Medical experts worldwide believe that vaccines are as important to your overall health as diet and exercise, but the question still prevails: Should you get yourself vaccinated with the newly developed COVID19 vaccine? 

Photograph of a resident from the informal settlement wearing a mask

Before we come to a conclusion, a small study is necessary to separate myths from facts.

Myth no.1: We get adversely affected by COVID19 if we get vaccinated. 

Learning from the experts, COVID-19 vaccines are developed using science that has been around for decades. The vaccine has gone through all the required stages of clinical trials followed by extensive testing and trails. The end result shows it as safe and efficient with minor side effects which validate the effectiveness of the vaccine. In short, the COVID19 vaccine creates antibodies and none of the vaccines contain live virus that causes COVID19.

Myth no. 2: The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in men and women.

There is no such evidence that proves this point. The vaccine does not interact with a woman’s reproductive organs nor with men’s sperm production or fertility. Pregnant women are at a greater risk if infected with COVID, which is why it is essential to get vaccinated to prevent any pregnancy related issues. 

Myth no. 3: I’ve already been diagnosed with COVID-19, so I don’t need to get vaccinated.

Once a person recovers from COVID19, the body generates natural immunity and antibodies but that does not last for long. The person may get re-infected after a few months. That is the reason medical experts suggest COVID vaccine after 3 months of recovery. Studies have proved that vaccination provides a strong boost in protecting  people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Myth no. 4: Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I no longer need to wear a mask.

While we understand the importance of getting vaccinated, it is equally true that no vaccine is 100% effective. Getting vaccinated does not mean we can go back to how life was earlier and move freely without masks. A vaccinated person might still be a carrier of the virus, even if they don’t feel sick. Thus, as per Government protocol, physical distancing, face masks and  handwashing is essential even after a person is vaccinated with both the doses of COVID19 Vaccine. 

While there are a lot of speculations and theories regarding the deadly COVID-19 virus, there is an imminent  danger that if you test positive, your entire family and those in contact with you are at high risk. The COVID-19 vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection from COVID-19 but it definitely helps in keeping oneself from getting seriously ill after testing positive. While the above explanations clear out most of the prevailing myths and strongly recommend vaccinations, individuals residing in the informal settlements may think differently. They live in dense settlements and are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus than the general public, but aren’t still fully convinced about the benefits of vaccination.

Shelter Associates, an NGO working for the betterment of the urban poor in Maharashtra through sanitation and housing for the last 28 years, has done extensive research on understanding communities and their preferences with respect to the prevailing COVID-19 scenario. Data collated from every house reveals that communities are apprehensive about getting vaccinated since there are several rumors  and misinformation doing the rounds about the vaccine. 

Community Workers collecting data and mobilizing communities on COVID-19 Vaccination

Recognizing the need to educate communities and bust the vaccination myths, Shelter Associates has been conducting COVID-19 vaccination drives in the informal settlements in the cities of Pune, Kolhapur, Navi Mumbai and Thane to support the City Municipal Corporations and partner organisations. The broad objectives of the campaign are:

  • To mobilize communities to follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour and spread awareness through formal and informal activities as part of risk communication and community engagement strategy. 
  • To reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccine willingness and registration in the informal settlements
  • To distribute WASH supplies such as masks, sanitizers, wash basins at Community toilets, etc. which would ultimately contribute towards Infection prevention and control. 
  • Capacity building of community workers, self-help groups, community health workers, etc. who are equal contributors to the vaccination drive.  
  • To monitor and evaluate a system of evidence-based planning based on assessments for Covid response and preparedness.
COVID-19 Vaccination Camps being organised in the informal Settlements
Health Officers vaccinating the residents of informal settlements

The expertise and experience of Shelter Associates in bringing about a behavioural change among communities will go a long way in busting the myths and spreading positive information. Such vaccination drives are vital in  ensuring that maximum people residing in informal settlements get vaccinated and lead a healthy and virus-free life. 

Reference: Shelter Associates, https://www.cdc.gov/

SUSTAINABLE SANITATION FOR THE FUTURE: Allocation of CTB Seats

Over the years, the slum population in India has soared along with its growing urban population. Regarded as an area unsuitable for human habitation with deplorable sanitation conditions, slums in India often fight over concerns of good health and hygiene.

Traditionally, slum dwellers had to depend on Community sanitation as home toilets were not even considered as a possibility by the urban local bodies. As per the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), it is estimated that families residing in slum settlements are most likely to use community sanitation facilities as a solution to open defecation due to space and financial constraints in constructing a home toilet. However, for the first time with the launch of SBM, there was immense thrust given to providing household toilets in slums wherever possible.

Shelter Associates, an NGO working in seven cities of Maharashtra, have been focusing on improving the sanitation situation in the informal settlements through facilitation of household toilets. With SA’s focused efforts on the facilitation of home toilets, many slums have become ODF and ODF+ in these cities. However, there is always a small percentage of families who can get left out due to various constraints and continue to be dependent on Community toilets.

Beneficiary of an individual household toilet facilitated by Shelter Associates

Hence the moot question is how to create sustainable sanitation practices in the use of community toilets? This is especially important in the context of COVID19 with its concerns of community hygiene.

In settlements where SA has facilitated OHOT, the direct impact was the reduction of pressure on community toilets as more and more families opted for a home toilet. In some slums the Community toilet seat to family ratio is reduced between 1:2 to 1:4. Shelter Associates have therefore strategized on distributing the CTB toilet seats to individual families who do not own a home toilet. Every toilet seat within the CTB will be allocated to two or three resident families who would be responsible for its upkeep.

This will provide multiple benefits to the families; Firstly, it would eliminate waiting time. Secondly, since the seats would be used only by 2-3 families who would also undertake the cleanliness and upkeep of the toilets and keep it locked when not in use, they are likely to be well maintained. This will ease the maintenance burden on the ULB’s. This is a very well strategized solution that has been initiated in the city of Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Shelter Associates has collaborated with HT Parekh Foundation and Kolhapur Municipal Corporation for the Urban WASH project in 8 slum settlements of Kolhapur. These settlements house over 1200 families, out of which over 680 families use 19 Community Toilets. Shelter Associates have therefore initiated facilitation of household toilets wherever possible followed by advocacy with the ULB to repair/refurbish toilet seats where necessary, installation of hand wash stations and the CTB Seat Distribution in all these project slums as part of providing holistic sanitation solutions in the slums.

Analysing the CTB situation along with KMC Deputy Commissioner and other officials
Visiting families who are unable to opt for a home toilet due to space constraint

In one of the project slum settlements of Phulewadi in Kolhapur where the model is adopted, there are a total of 4 Community Toilet Blocks. After SA’s intervention in the slum through the household toilet facilitation, only 31 families comprising 132 individuals now use the CTB. With the reduced CTB seat to person ratio, it was decided to distribute the seats among families who were still dependent on the CTB. The Male and Female CTB toilet seats have been  distributed to families of that settlement after a series of consultation with the community.  Through this initiative, only the allocated families can use the toilet seat as they will be provided locks and keys for the same. They have also undertaken the responsibility of maintenance and upkeep of their allocated toilet.

Public event with the KMC officials and Phulewadi residents to announce the allocation of CTB seats
Map of Phulewadi (Kolhapur) showing gender-wise distribution of CTB seats to families

This model illustrates a win-win situation for all the stakeholders since it allows equal distribution of sanitation facilities to the communities while also lowering the maintenance burden on the Government bodies. This model has the potential to be scaled across 24 informal settlements of Kolhapur where the toilet seat to family ratio has reduced drastically. Scaling the project further, wherever possible, individual household toilets can be facilitated to create additional scope for allocating CTB seats to households who are unable to get a home toilet constructed.

This is a step in the direction of safe community sanitation. In this model there is a move to shift responsibility of maintenance from the ULB to the community by converting the status of the CTB from public to semi private toilets.

NO MASK NO TASK – An effort to encourage 100% mask use

It has been proven by medical experts and researchers across the world that the use of masks can slow down the spread of Corona Virus which is highly infectious and spreading rapidly across the globe.  It spreads mainly through respiratory droplets; and therefore, a good and correctly  placed mask not only protects oneself but also from spreading it to others. Having said that time and again, a large section of the population, also those living in the informal settlements are very casual and carefree about wearing masks, more so because they have a lot of misconceptions regarding COVID19 and sometimes due to the false beliefs that it won’t affect their locality/community. Although the lockdown has imposed strict restrictions on the movement of residents,  and strict code of conduct for business and commercial areas  across cities, there is a certain laxity in following the precautionary measures across all strata of the society.

Shelter Associates, an NGO working around the implementation of WASH in the informal settlements of Maharashtra, even during such challenging conditions, is mobilising slum communities around  household toilets  and COVID19 prevention. Observations from the communities suggest an urgent need to spread awareness on the use of masks  and its importance. Whether  buying regular grocery items, going to the medical store for medicines or visiting the community toilet; most of the residents prefer to go out without masks for their daily chores. Another thing noticed is that many people are wearing masks, but only partially covering the mouth and nose , which entirely defeats the purpose of wearing one. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Shelter Associates has initiated the ‘No Mask No Task’ campaign with the sole objective of creating awareness on 100% mask use in the informal settlements of Maharashtra. The campaign is active in the selected slum settlements of Navi Mumbai and Kolhapur.

Community Volunteers mobilizing residents on 100% mask use at public places

As a part of this campaign, the community volunteers visit door to door to educate families to use masks while moving out of their homes; inform shopkeepers and street vendors to strictly enforce the use of mask during transactions; communicate with CTB Caretakers to prevent residents from using the toilets unless they wear a proper mask while entering. For the success of this campaign, the community volunteers are trained extensively on COVID19 background, its spread and preventive measures. Unless fully convinced, they will not be in a position to effectively communicate the need for a mask, therefore SA has taken extra efforts in briefing communities and motivating people to follow related precautionary steps.

Informative posters being displayed within the slum vicinity

To make the campaign more effective, community volunteers have also printed eye-catching and informative posters while some created handmade posters in places where printing is not possible due to the lockdown. These posters are displayed at prominent places around the settlement such as shops, busy corners, Community Toilets etc., creating continuous visibility and making immediate visual impressions on its onlookers. The posters have been reaching a wide audience, especially in these densely packed slum areas where many people are likely to see them. Supporting the efforts of Shelter Associates, responsible residents within the community also play a pivotal role in the advocacy of mask use by creating posters and spreading awareness in the interest of other residents.

And now that we all are expecting to hit the third wave COVID19 which is projected to be much more harmful than the present wave, there exists a need for extensive mobilization where individuals are educated on the significance of mask use, within their communities. While it takes a lot of effort to create behavioural change among the people, if we don’t fight this war now, we will definitely fall victim to this pandemic. If a majority of people behave responsibly, we will certainly minimise the impact of this life-threatening catastrophe. Let’s be safe and keep others safe!

A small boy from the community displays a poster made by him

BRINGING LIVELIHOOD OPPORTUNITY THROUGH THE ‘OHOT’ INITIATIVE

The last few months witnessed a major setback in the Indian Economy and the overall work space, especially the informal sector bearing the brunt. The COVID19 pandemic hit hard on the daily wage earners and the migrant labour. Work opportunities coming to a standstill, has constricted the livelihood of the labour class of people belonging to the construction industry working as masons, plumbers, ground diggers, tile fitting workers, painters, etc. who on an average, earn Rs.400 – Rs.500 per day.

Even while this adverse scenario continues to stay, a considerable contribution towards the livelihood of the people from this segment comes from Shelter Associates’ ‘One Home One Toilet’ initiative. This cost sharing sanitation model of facilitating household toilets to the families of urban slum settlements came into existence in the year 2013 and has now impacted the lives of over 1 lakh individuals directly through the facilitation of over 22000 home toilets. Not only has it led to healthier families through an improved sanitation facility, but also proved to be a livelihood opportunity for the skilled and unskilled labour mostly residing within the communities who are a part of the toilet construction process.

Cost of toilet  construction
Cost of toilet construction

While the pandemic led to unemployment and a halt in the construction projects, having a home toilet gained greater prominence considering the safety & hygiene threats involved with community sanitation. During such a crisis when the daily wage labour had to face financial miseries, the OHOT model of Shelter Associates provided livelihood to many skilled and unskilled labour who could see a source of income through the toilet construction work. The toilet construction further incentivised renovations and reconstruction of houses as a step towards an elevated standard of living, adding to the income of masons and other casual labour involved.

Toilet construction work in progress
Toilet construction work in progress

For the construction of 22000 household toilets, nearly 13,53,000 manhours were utilized. This meant more employment opportunities and a reduction in the transport cost as most of the masons and other labour involved in the toilet construction stayed in the immediate vicinity. Shelter Associates could thus leverage nearly 15.6 crores towards labours charges for drainage led toilets and close to Rs. 2.75 crores towards the labour for construction of septic tank toilets. Overall, Rs. 18.3 crores have been a revenue for the skilled and unskilled labour involved in the construction of 22000 individual household toilets, which is still counting.

“I have been working as a mason for several years. The situation of COVID19 and Lockdown impacted my work greatly as I had no job for almost 6 months. Shelter Associates’ intervention of donating toilet construction materials to the families was a major source of livelihood for me. I started getting regular income as the families approached me for their toilet construction work.”
– Kapanna Laxman Pathrut, Mason (Kanan Nagar, Kolhapur)

The ‘One Home One Model’ has proved to play a dual role in community development. One being the assurance of safety, hygiene and well-being to the toilet owners and the other to provide income opportunities to the labour community involved in getting a beautiful home toilet available to the needy families.

Completed beneficiary toilets
Completed beneficiary toilets

FELICITATING SHELTER ASSOCIATES SWACHHTA CHAMPIONS

As part of the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”, the Government of India conducts ‘Swachh Sarvekshan’ which is an annual survey of cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation in cities and towns across India. Through interactions with States and ULBs, every city felicitates individuals and organizations who have played an active role in creating cleaner cities.

Swachh Survekshan 2021
Swachh Survekshan 2021

Recognizing the contribution of Shelter Associates towards facilitating safe sanitation in the urban slum settlements, creating awareness & relief campaigns during COVID19 and impacting the lives of many through various WASH projects, GIS experts and Community Workers from the organization were honored during a felicitation ceremony organized by Pune Municipal Corporation on 9th February 2021.

Felicitating team Shelter Associates
Felicitating team Shelter Associates

The dignitaries present at the ceremony were Madhav Jagtap (Head of Solid Waste Department and Deputy Commissioner, PMC), Kunal Khemnar (Additional Deputy Commissioner, PMC), Asha Raut (Ghole Road Regional Officer and Assistant Commissioner, PMC), Avanti Kadam (Head CSR, Cummins Corporation) among others.

PMC Dignitaries, Corporate CSR representatives and team Shelter Associates
PMC Dignitaries, Corporate CSR representatives and team Shelter Associates

GIS experts Pradeep Waje and Tanaji Raut and Community Workers Dilip Kamble, Birudev Changire, Sanjay More, Sunita Gurav, Soni Chavan and Subodhini Dhavare were honored with certificates and bouquets by the dignitaries.

www.shelter-associates.org

SLUM HOUSEHOLDS GET THEIR INDEPENDENT DIGITAL ADDRESS THROUGH PLUS CODES

Having an independent accessible address means so much more than just having a place of living. As per 2014 World Bank Data, 24% families in India live in slums who are often packed into overcrowded homes and cramped living conditions. They either don’t have an address or have one that does not identify their house or business location accurately.  Therefore, for basic facilities and emergency services to reach their doorsteps, a navigable location address is a must in the present digital era and this is where Shelter Associates has partnered with Google and UNICEF to bring this unique and powerful solution known as Plus Codes to the have-nots of the city.

Steps to search location using Plus Code
Steps to search location using Plus Code

Plus Codes use latitude and longitude to produce a short, easy-to-share alpha-numeric digital address that can represent any location on earth. Whether you want to open a bank account, secure confidential letters or simply order food online, all you have to do is enter your unique Plus Code on google maps and get navigated to your doorsteps. Number plates with the plus code can be fixed on the doors of individual huts for ready reference of the unique address. Plus Codes also directs individuals or service providers to the nearest amenities such as water standposts, electrical posts, community Toilets, manholes, etc.

Closer view of Plus Code on slum maps
Closer view of Plus Code on a slum map

Shelter Associates strategises its preliminary Plus Code project in the slum settlements of Pune, Thane, Kolhapur and Navi Mumbai.

Slum dwellers receive an independent identity through this addressing solution for easy accessibility of services such as water, sanitation, healthcare, electricity, opening bank accounts, postal services, etc further saving time and guiding service providers to reach individual doorsteps. Also, emergency services such as Fire, Ambulance and Police can find them during an emergency.

Plus Code demonstration to communities
Plus Code demonstration to communities

The slum communities are also mobilised by Shelter Associates’ community workers through awareness workshops and personal meetings to understand the concept of plus codes and use it to their advantage. Large slum maps displaying household and infrastructure plus codes are also been installed in the slums for easy accessibility.

Slum residents of Laxmi Nagar reading the map
Slum residents of Laxmi Nagar reading the map

The plus code project is not limited to communities only but has also been playing an instrumental role for effective e-governance. Lack of granular data has always hampered governments from reaching out to the vulnerable families but through this initiative, the Urban Local Bodies will link this new data to their existing data through which they can access and update more precisely. They will be able to spatially pinpoint and analyze their database and use the same for effective and efficient service delivery which is also beneficial during Pandemics for facilitating the provision of emergency and essential services. Humanitarian groups, NGOs and Urban Local Bodies can easily find people needing basic aid along with tracking and monitoring programs related to health, education, etc.

Plus Code plate installed at the beneficiary's home entrance
Plus Code plate installed at the beneficiary’s home entrance

Refer to the Plus Code Film  for more information on Plus codes and its impact

OUR JOURNEY OF REMOULDING DATA COLLECTION – FROM PAPER TO KOBO TOOLBOX TO AVNI

By Smita Kale

Lokmanya Nagar
Lokmanya Nagar

Shelter Associates (SA), a Civil Society Organization founded in 1993, comprising architects, GIS experts, social workers, community workers and volunteers have carried extensive work in areas of cost-effective housing, basic infrastructural facilities, health, hygiene and sanitation while inspiring behavioural change in the slum dwellers. We work towards empowering communities living in informal settlements to pursue their right to dignity and sustainable life.

In this article, we talk about our approach of moving from Paper based field data collection to Kobo Toolbox, and then finally to Avni. We share some lessons learnt and explain the advantages we see of an offline-based Android app for form data capture.

Data-Driven Approach

One of the organisation’s core competencies lies in its data-driven approach. We follow a rigorous process of collecting data through surveys and mapping efforts. The slum data collected by the team is spatially organised using GIS software and presented as an overlay on Google Earth remote sensing imagery. The collated data is used for inclusive urban planning and implementing affordable housing and sanitation schemes across the slums in Maharashtra. You can see live dashboards on our website. Our data-driven approach using technology to plan citywide strategies for social housing has impacted the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) policy of GOI.

Screenshot of a live dashboard from SA website
Screenshot of a live dashboard from SA website

In 2013 we undertook a landmark project ‘One Home One Toilet’ to deliver household toilets on a cost-sharing basis. The data-driven initiative follows a community-centric and an inclusive approach wherein it works closely with the municipal corporations right from validating data to toilet delivery. As of September 2020, SA has surveyed around 2,93,000 households for successful implementation of OHOT. It has impacted over 3,70,000 people directly & indirectly with a home toilet.

From Paper-based system to a digital system using KoboToolbox

In the early years of implementing various schemes, be it affordable housing or delivery of sanitation, data was collected through pen-paper surveys. Over the years we have shifted to other, more technological driven means of data collection. In 2016, we shifted our collection system to the Android-based open-source platform of KoBoToolbox. Kobo is one of the most popular data collection tools in development sector. It provides an offline mobile app for data collection, a web app for designing forms and an option to extract collected data for further analysis.

Moving to Kobo certainly was a good step forward but we soon started facing limitations with it.

Limitations with KoboToolbox

1. Lack of ability to view and update records from the mobile app

KoboCollect does not support offline editing of records once submitted. It requires internet and is too complex as described in this link. Lack of any alternative for modifications forced us to survey the households repeatedly where data needed to be updated. With the increasing scale of interventions in different slums across cities, this was not a viable solution for long.

2. Form-based data model as against Case-based

If we have to submit 50 responses for a slum, same slum name is to be entered 50 times. This slows down the work. Moreover, there was no way to validate to ensure the name entered is correct. Ideally, we would want a way to be able to pick from an available list or a dropdown. There are workarounds but no native case management support in KoboToolbox.

3. RedEployment required to change form design

We could not add a question to the existing form and if we do, we have to redeploy it and redeployment means losing existing data.

From Kobo Toolbox to Avni

While exploring solutions for these problems we came across the Avni application in a workshop organised by Tech4Dev platform in Pune. This open-source platform, with a rich data modelling approach, an offline app for data recording, web app for admin & form designing and different options to extract data, promised to solve the problems we were facing.

Initially, we started with the city of Kolhapur as a pilot. We first migrated our data from Kobo to Avni which turned out to be simple. Kobo provides a way to export data in excel and Avni provides a way to upload/import using CSV files. After importing the existing data, we soon initiated the data collection using Avni. To carry out the modifications accurately we trained our surveyors to use the application, fill in different types of forms and update any filled in data as per the required changes. The users found it easy and the pilot worked out really well. Thus we decided to adopt Avni for all our work and started using it for the Pune region as well.

SA surveyors using android technology for data collection
SA surveyors using android technology for data collection

Benefits of moving to Avni from Kobo Collect

Below are the key differences and benefits we are noticing of using Avni over Kobo. We are listing these down for the benefit of those considering both these options for field work.

1. Ability to design a custom app using locations, subject, programs and forms from Avni data model

The most important difference between the two softwares is that Avni provided us with the ability to create app as per our data model and data collection process. We created our location hierarchy of City, Ward and Slums using locations; households are created as subjects and separate forms for different vertical services like property tax, solid waste management, metered water connection, etc.

SA Avni app data model
SA Avni app data model

This provided us with 2 benefits

a. Avoid repetitive data collection

We register the household once and whenever a new service is provided, we record a new form by choosing an already registered household. This was not possible in Kobo and saves time and is very convenient to get real-time data.

b. Well modelled and segregated data enabling easy access to a subset of the entire data of a particular house

In the near future, household-level data collected can be shared and accessed with various departments of the Municipal Corporation to ensure work is carried out effectively. Data for sanitation, property tax, solid waste management, metered water connection, etc. once shared to the Municipal Corporation can be accessed for service delivery. For example, once a particular service like a metered water connection is provided to a household, the filled-in data can be retrieved and updated from a shared water connection to a metered water connection. As we collect and share data on different sectors, we can disintegrate it as per requirement and send it across various departments of the Municipal Corporation to link and use the collected data simultaneously. Once services are delivered the household data will be updated by our surveyors or the Municipal Corporation (if shared/access provided) and used further for monitoring tax collection, solid waste management, etc.

2. Ability to search, view and update records anytime in the mobile app

As described earlier, in Kobo Collect once the data is submitted it is not possible to view and edit them. In Avni, the records always stay in the device even after submitting to the server. They can be modified and synchronized again with the server. This is really helpful in the field!

Screenshots from SA Avni App
Screenshots from SA Avni App

 

3. Ability to control access of data to surveyors based on their work areas

Another useful feature is the assignment of the catchment. The administrator can give access or remove access of any particular catchment to any surveyor. This has enabled us to maintain the privacy of the information as well.

4. Hassle free modification of forms

Avni supported easy modification of app design including forms without having to redeploy or losing data. This customized, editable solution for data collection has made our work effective and greatly reduced the efforts to maintain updated household-level data.

Smita Kale, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at Shelter Associates, shares about their journey of moving from Paper based data collection to digital systems, first using Kobo Toolbox and then to Avni.
Article published at https://avniproject.org/blog/shelter-journey-remoulding-data-collection-paper-kobotoolbox-avni/

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.