ENGAGING ALL STAKEHOLDERS AS DECISION MAKERS – A MUST FOR PLANNING CITY WIDE INCLUSIVE SANITATION

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365telugu.com online news,National, April 19th,2022: The 13 th edition of Dasra Philanthropy Week, hosted by Dasra, a strategic philanthropy organisation, brought to fore their vision of a transformed India where A Billion Thrive with dignity and equity. The session Leaving No One Behind: Ensuring Inclusive Sanitation For Every City amply captured this sentiment. The major challenge in ensuring city wide inclusive sanitation (CWIS) lies in two-thirds of the 60 million urban households in India that do not have access to safe and adequate sanitation.

The session highlighted how, despite the systemic obstacles furthering this
disparity, some cities and states in India have pioneered community-led inclusive sanitation models. These models serve to include women and provide solutions to the unique challenges faced by informal settlements and the people residing there. The first panel included Bishnupriya Behera, (President, Aradhana Area Level Federation), Kusumlata Devda (Ward Councillor, Jodhpur Municipal Corporation), Pankajan Mathivanan (Ward Councillor, Trichy Municipal Corporation) and was moderated by Meghna Malhotra (Deputy Director,UMC).There are 70,000 women’s self-help groups with at least 7 lac women members across India.

The discussion with panel members brought out the significance of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in conveying women’s concerns to the municipal corporation officials. The need for spreading awareness on issues related with hygiene, sanitation and waste was also discussed. Kusumlata Devda, who was a member of an SHG – Misaal – before she became a councillor, said, “When I visit the municipal corporation officials, the SHG women accompany me and put forth their opinions and requirements. This greatly benefits me. These are sisters who were earlier shy of coming out of their homes, but after joining the SHG they write letters stating their issues and even file online complaints. Bridging this communication gap has helped the officials to understand the challenges of informal settlements better and acknowledge that the women of informal settlements can stand up for
their rights.”

Bishnupriya Behera said, “I went to the municipal office several times for resolving the issue of waste in my community, but it was not until 30-40 representatives from our Area Level Federation (ALF) went together that the issue was resolved. We also ensured that while collecting waste from our settlement,the collectors waited for 15-20 minutes outside houses where persons with disabilities were living, so that they would have enough time to bring out the waste. Another initiative we took as ALF was the construction of a community toilet. However, we found that people were still defecating in the open. So, we started an awareness campaign to educate them about sanitation and importance of using toilets.

We observed that a larger number of people starting using the toilet after we started the campaign.” The second panel discussion which was moderat ed by Bhawana Prakash, Associate Partner, Ernst and Young LLP, took the narrative further with key decision makers and influencers who are respon sible for delivering inclusive approaches in sanitation. The role of the government in ensuring effective implementation and role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in informing innovative models was discussed. The panel also deliberated over the key indicators of successful investments in community centric sanitation programs.

Commenting on the implementation of inclusive sanitation pilots across states, G Mathi Vathanan,Principal Secretary, Housing & Urban Developme nt Department, Government of Odisha remarked,“Community participation is in our DNA. In Odisha you will see that our STPs (sewerage treatment
plants) and solid waste management plants are operated by women and transgender person SHGs.Therefore, instead of a model where tenders are invited and we become more occupied with billing than with community, we prefer models where community members can participate to drive high quality and sustainable sanitation. When we talk about safe sanitation, we mean sanitation which is safe for all stakeholders – service receivers and service providers.

Inclusive sanitation is about leaving no one behind and it means that each and every city, area, habitation, and home must have access to sanitation
services and must be a part of the sanitation value chain. Inclusion must also be equitable. In cities like Bhubaneshwar, 40% of the population lives in slums-which occupy much less in terms of the geographical area.Such areas cannot be left out on the basis of geography alone as demographically
they have a higher weightage. Our focus is on rolling out the model,learning from the experiences, fine tune the strategies, come out with a blue print and then cover the entire state.”Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, CFAR, explained the utility of a Single Window System for service delivery, “Working with the urban poor is a highly dynamic situation, quite unlike the situation in rural areas.

In various cities, the informal settlements do not have the favour of the authorities, they look down upon them. Therefore, service delivery to these areas is compromised. While government support is critical, we need to recognize the need for an autonomous community platform, which is completely horizontal and highly representative. This autonomous platform is the premise on which the Single Window initiative is based. We call it a ‘Community Managed Committee’ in the space of WASH and a‘Helpdesk’ in all other social entitlements that we administer. The basic principle is that it empowers the community to articulate its own priorities and helps in tackli ng different long-standing issues.”

The perspectives on sanitation are evolving towards safety and inclusion of all stakeholders, and the importance of understanding hyper-local contexts when crafting sanitation strategies. In Leaving No One Behind, it is essential that the perspectives on challenges and solutions come from the people
themselves. Therefore, the aspect of representation of women and other marginalized people in informal settlements is the most significant when designing and implementing solutions which are effective and truly inclusive.