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Toilets for a healthy tomorrow

Bharti Foundation’s ‘Satya Bharti Abhiyan’ is an initiative to improve sanitation facilities in rural areas and is contributing to India’s largest cleanliness drive Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Published on December 20, 2020 at 3:44 am

Updated on March 20, 2021 at 06:48 am

An old and physically challenged beneficiary in rural Ludhiana.

Bharti Foundation’s ‘Satya Bharti Abhiyan’ is an initiative to improve sanitation facilities in rural areas and is contributing to India’s largest cleanliness drive Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Open defecation is a challenge at the global scale. It adversely affects many facets of life, like the physical and cognitive development of children, sometimes leading to infant mortality. It also reduces the availability of human capital because of diseases, leading to loss of productivity and associated disadvantages. Open defecation affects everyone, a respective of an individual’s access or lack thereof to sanitation facilities. Poor sanitation affects the quality of life in many ways. Some of the challenges faced by individuals and communities due to poor sanitation include:
• High Child Mortality Rate: Death of children due to diarrheal disease is largely preventable through proper sanitation and improved hygiene. The prevalence of such diseases is much higher in rural areas without improved sanitation.
• Loss to Gross Domestic Product (GDP): According to The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Sanitation in India, a report from the World Bank, poor sanitation leads to considerable economic losses for India, equivalent to 6.4% of India’s GDP in 2006 at US $53.8 billion (Rs. 2.4 trillion).
• Impact on Education and Development of Children: India is among many developing countries which are increasing spend on education to meet the Development Goals’ targets for universal primary school completion. For a host of reasons, that spending will have more impact if some money goes towards providing toilets for students and teachers. Children enduring intense whipworm infections are absent from school twice as much as their worm-free peers. Not only do these illnesses deprive children of school attendance and achievement, they have a negative impact on their development, thereby impacting their countries’ development potential and deepening the cycle of poverty. Knowledge on disease transmission indicates that 100 percent of infections caused by soil-transmitted parasitic worms can be prevented with adequate sanitation, hygiene and availability of water.

Girls’ toilet in a govt school in Ludhiana.

Satya Bharti Abhiyan: Addressing Sanitation in Ludhiana and Rural Amritsar
Bharti Foundation launched Satya Bharti Abhiyan program in August, 2014 in response to the call of the Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi to the corporates for supporting government’s initiative of Swachh Bharat Mission. The Abhiyan adopted rural areas of the entire Ludhiana district with a mandate to:
• Provide a toilet in every household of rural Ludhiana that doesn’t have one
• Provide a girls’ toilet in every Government school not having a separate girls’ toilet
• Bring about behavioral change towards improving sanitation conditions
• Implement the Abhiyan independently, i.e. without taking any funds/resources from the Government or the beneficiary
Project Impact
Since its launch in 2014, more than 24,000 toilets have been constructed and handed over free-of-cost to individual households across 1230 villages and 11 urban local bodies in Ludhiana and rural Amritsar district, benefitting over 1,80,000 people. In particular, women and children have benefited from the programme as they are no longer forced to relieve themselves in the open. In addition to rural household sanitation, separate toilets for girls have also been constructed by Bharti Foundation in 14 Government schools in rural Ludhiana. Responding to a request from Ludhiana Police Commissionerate, Bharti Foundation constructed 37 separate ladies’ toilets in police stations and posts offices that did not have a separate toilet for women.
Process-Driven Approach to Manage Size and Scale:
The implementation of Satya Bharti Abhiyan can be broadly divided into four steps which are as follows:
1. Informing the community about the programme and encouraging them to participate: Bharti Foundation conducted various village level meetings in Panchayat Bhawans, Gurdwaras etc., to raise awareness among community members on the ill-effects of open defecation and the importance of having individual toilets in their households.
2. Provisioning of toilets: During the village meetings the Foundation invited applications from the community members for construction of toilets in their households. The Foundation then ensured the construction of the toilets in these households through the prescribed process guidelines based on the social audits.
3. Ensuring behavioural change among people and to encourage good sanitation practices: The field team engages with direct beneficiaries and also with the community members across the region to increase awareness on the importance of adopting healthy sanitation practices. A well-structured IEC campaign comprising elements like a one-on-one interaction with beneficiaries, use of booklets, village/gram sabha meetings and rallies etc are used to encourage regular use and proper operation and maintenance of toilets.
4. Random sample checking of usage at various intervals as well as after one year of handing over of toilets: This is done through teams deployed in the field for the construction of toilets and for monitoring and control of the programme. This helped in identifying the reasons/gaps in usage and maintenance – enabling targeted IEC.

Girls’ toilet in a govt school in Ludhiana.

What makes Abhiyan Different?
1. Involvement of beneficiaries, Gram Panchayat and the entire community in the process to select beneficiaries
a. The process of beneficiary identification is carried out with the complete involvement of Gram Panchayat representatives and the entire community in the village.
b. Applications are invited from the village’s needy households.
c. A consensus is reached with the Gram Panchayat members on the list of households to be provided a toilet.
d. Posters with this list are displayed at prominent places in the village (like Gram Panchayat office, Gurudwara, bus stop etc.), informing all about the identified beneficiaries.
e. These posters carry telephone numbers of the representative of the Foundation, the construction partner and the Sarpanch. This empowers all, including the weaker/marginalised sections, to participate and get the names of any left-out beneficiaries included in the list by reporting any discrepancy in the list to the contacts provided on the posters.
2. Transparency in the process to identify the beneficiaries
The above processes together empower the community (including the marginalised/weaker sections) to get access to toilets and ensure good sanitation practices.
3. Involvement of all stakeholders in the implementation and in the processes to control/ensure the quality of toilets
A. Involvement of beneficiaries throughout the construction of toilets:
i. After seven days of displaying the poster/list of identified beneficiaries and addressing the input received, the Foundation initiates construction of the toilets in the identified households.
ii. The first step is one-on-one interaction with the beneficiary to explain once again the specifications of the toilet that will be constructed and also to encourage regular use, proper operation and maintenance of the toilets.
iii. Once the construction is completed, the toilets are handed over to the beneficiaries. On a HandingTaking Over Certificate, a confirmation is obtained from the beneficiary that the toilet has been constructed as per the specifications explained to them, thus nurturing a sense of ownership.
iv. The format of the Handing-Taking Over Certificate empowers the beneficiary with the opportunity to share their feedback.
B. Involvement of Gram Panchayat/Social Audit: When the construction of all toilets identified in a village is completed, a Certificate of Satisfaction is obtained from the Sarpanch of the village for the toilets constructed in his/her village. This enhances the Gram Panchayat’s ownership towards the toilets.
C. Involvement of School Management Committee (SMC): In the case of girls’ toilets to be constructed in Government Schools, the list of schools is obtained from the State Education Department. Also, the Certificate of Satisfaction is obtained from the Principal of the school and the SMC. This inculcates a sense of ownership of the toilets at all levels.
D. Involvement of beneficiaries, Sarpanch and SMC in the release of payment for the construction of toilets: The aforementioned activities are concurrent with sample checks by the Foundation team that certifies the release of payments after carrying out its own checks and on the receipt of Handing-Taking Over Certificates and the Certificate of Satisfaction. This involves and empowers all beneficiaries, including the marginalised section beneficiaries, the Sarpanch/Panchayat members and the SMC.
E. Involvement of State Administration and DWSS in the authentication of toilets constructed: In Ludhiana, the Foundation forwarded the list of all beneficiaries to the Deputy Commissioner’s office and the Nodal Officer, Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), DWSS Ludhiana to upload the same on the Government’s Swachh Bharat Mission website. This step ensures an independent check of the number and quality of toilets constructed, also bringing in transparency across all stakeholders.
F. Involvement of communities, Panchayats, State Administration and DWSS in maintenance and operation:
i. Input is sought from community members, Panchayat members and the DWSS on the state of toilets constructed by the Foundation at random intervals.
ii. To identify the gaps, after completion of one year of handing over of the toilets, feedback is obtained from the beneficiary and the Sarpanch/Gram Panchayat members/-School Principal/SMC on the status and usage of toilets constructed. This information is used to release the final payment to the construction partners. In addition, proper documentation of the above-mentioned activities is maintained to ensure accountability and compliance to processes.
G. Involvement of Women and Marginalised Sections of the Community: The intent of the Foundation to encourage the involvement of women and marginalized sections was translated on the ground through the following processes:
i. All persons, including women and members from the marginalised section households, not having a toilet were provided one.
ii. Women were encouraged to participate in IEC activities and in the monitoring of the construction of their own toilets.
iii. The construction partners, being experienced NGOs, appointed women as their “motivators” to carry out one-on-one interactions with beneficiaries under the IEC and also to check usage.
iv. DWSS appointed women in the Nigrani committees that were formed as a process to help villages achieve ODF status.
Satya Bharti School children as the change agents for rural Sanitation
Apart from providing sanitation facilities, the Foundation is also focused on bringing about behavioral change through various ongoing sanitation campaigns spread over six states in India. Through various awareness campaigns, students of Satya Bharti Schools have inspired their parents to build more than 3500 toilets at home, and have worked as agents of change to bring awareness amongst the communities they live in.

ladies’ toilet for staff and visitors at Ludhiana Police Station.

Restoring the Independence of Women: A Case Story

Paramjeet Kaur is a determined woman, residing in the village of Salempur (Punjab) with her husband, Surender Singh and four children. The duo make just enough money to fulfill their basic necessities and the needs of the children. Despite economic restraints, a smile never leaves Paramjeet’s face. However, this was not the case just a few months ago. In 2013, Paramjeet shifted to her own house from a rented accommodation. The joy of owning a small house of her own was short-lived, as unlike the rented house, her own house had no toilet. Not used to defecating in the open, Paramjeet experienced unimagined embarrassment and great discomfort at having to travel long distances to defecate. Her children also began to fall sick often due to open defecation, adding to the strain on their finances as her husband was the only earning member at that time. However, Paramjeet’s struggles soon came to an end when Bharti Foundation constructed an individual toilet in her house. This positive change transformed her life completely. With more time at her hands, Paramjeet started working part-time at a factory to add to the family income. Today, she is happy to contribute to the family income. “This toilet has truly empowered me, giving me the opportunity to work and give my family a better lifestyle,” says Paramjeet.

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