Shelter Associates understand that community participation is an essential component of inclusive planning. It has been observed by the NGO that without effective community involvement, support and understanding projects fail to achieve tangible long-lasting change and ultimately fail in their objective of slum rehabilitation. This is why Shelter Associates invest a significant amount of time and energy into establishing and nurturing effective working relationships with all stakeholders of their projects, especially the slum dwellers who are after all the end users of the designs and occupiers and caretakers of the projects. These relationships are the unseen element of Shelter Associates projects; they are the ‘software’ components which support the ‘hardware’ interventions, such as new housing, new individual toilets and solid waste collection schemes. Workshops are integral to the software component of the project and have now been expanded in scope to include FGDs.
The FGDs are informal gatherings of small groups of people who are of the same gender and approximate age. This format not only allows for issues specific to that demographic to be discussed but, due to the informal and intimate nature of the gathering, it also means that more sensitive topics can be discussed; questions, statements and admissions that would not normally be said in a large formal meeting with all members of the community are freely relayed and discussed sensitively and compassionately with Shelter Associates social workers. These sessions provide insight into the behaviour of people who live without access to toilets and allows Shelter Associates to ascertain the communities current experience, awareness and understanding of the issues of open defecation including the associated issues of sexual harassment, menstrual health, nutrition, violent assault and gender insensitivity.
On 17th January, Shelter Associates gave a presentation in the community of Shivrai Nagar to tell residents more about their work, and celebrate the completion of 105 individual toilets in the settlement.
Shivrai Nagar is one of a number of unregistered slums in the Bibewadi area of Pune, where residents lack access to basic facilities such as clean water, waste disposal and sanitation. Lack of toilet provision was a pressing problem, with over 2000 people forced to defecate in open space prior to Shelter Associates’ involvement.
The presentation was well attended by community members, along with representatives from our partners Swadhar; Friends of Shelter Associates (FSA); and the Municipal Corporation. Sunil Bhatia, the founder of FSA, had travelled to Pune from the US to visit. His charity raised 40,000 USD towards the individual toilet project, in which toilets were provided to families on a cost-sharing basis.
The presentation began with an introduction from Angali Bapat, of the NGO Swardhar, who first invited Shelter Associates into the settlement. Then it was the turn of Shelter Associates community workers, who explained the project in more detail. They used aerial photographs and coloured plans to display their survey information in a way that was easy for everyone to understand. They also showed photographs of the terrible garbage situation in the settlement before the clean up – accompanied by peals of laughter from those who had forgotten how shocking the situation had been only a short time ago.
The most memorable moment of the day was when community members stood up to tell their own stories. These personal responses to the project were not scripted and gave a powerful illustration of the difference a toilet had made for individual families.
Despite the celebrations, work in Shivrai Nagar is far from over. Shelter Associates is working to extend individual toilet provision within the settlement and to the surrounding areas, where the sanitation situation is acute. Survey work is currently underway in some of these neighbouring communities.
Visit the press section of our website to read articles about the event from Indian Express, Sakal and Lokamat.