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.
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.
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.
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.
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.