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Lending a Human Touch to Habitation

Using community toilets is no longer a dirty business for over 200 poor families in Sathewadi, Thane (West). The toilet that they use is powered by solar energy, has 21 clean cubicles and uninterrupted water supply. Also, it is only accessible to those who have a smart card. Habitat for Humanity India, the NGO that funded the toilet works towards providing sanitation and housing for the poor and marginalised in India.

The community sanitation complex includes 11 toilets for men, 6 toilets for women, 2 toilets for children and 2 for differently abled individuals.

Residents have to submit copies of their ration, aadhaar and voter identification cards to get a smart card. Residents will soon be able to use these cards to recharge their phones, get cable connections and book rail tickets. Currently, the complex is managed by a residents’ self-help group. Habitat for Humanity India helped the residents of Sathewadi set up a community group known as the ‘4G Group’. 4G stands for ‘Give, Grow, Gain and Glitter.’ The group visits families door to door, mobilizes them, raises awareness about sanitation, hygiene, health and the importance of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to make India open defecation free. The community is responsible for operation and maintenance of the sanitation complex. The revenue generated through the pay-and-use model is used by the 4G group to take care of operations and maintenance. This ensures sustainability of the project.

The complex has four CCTV cameras, one each at the entrance, on the staircase, in front of the women’s section and in the battery room. Solar panels installed on the rooftop supplies most of the power that the complex needs. Apart from being self-sufficient when it comes to power, the building also has motion-sensing lights that switch on automatically when people enter it and turns off seconds after people leave it, thus saving power.

It was in October 2016 that Habitat for Humanity joined hands with Thane Municipal Corporation to build 10 community toilets in the Sathewadi area. The idea has been to showcase a model for intervention that can be reproduced at scale and takes into account the larger needs of the community.

“The crucial aspect here is not the building of the toilets but their maintenance, in which the community has to be involved,” Rajan Samuel, Managing Director of Habitat for Humanity India, had said.

65 year old Jeeja Borade who lives in Sathewadi, Thane, Maharashtra met with an accident six years ago. She had to get a rod fitted into her shoulder and her right leg, which restricted her mobility. Gradually Jeeja started walking with the help of a walker but was unable to use the old toilets. She was completely dependent on her family and was given a chair that helped her defecate into a plastic bag. This embarrassed her to no end and left her helpless. The community sanitation complex built in association with the Thane Municipal Corporation is a huge relief to Jeeja. She doesn’t have to use the chair any longer. “The previous sanitation facility was very unhygienic. With this new facility, I use the toilet on my own. Now it’s our responsibility to continue to maintain this facility for our benefit. A clean society cannot be achieved unless everyone takes the responsibility to do their bit”, says Jeeja.

In 2014, the Habitat India launched the ‘Sensitise to Sanitise’ (S2S) campaign with a mission to complement SBA through construction of sanitation units, spread awareness on the need for proper sanitation and address the issues under total sanitation or the sanitation ecosystem. Within a year of coming together, the coalition not only achieved the target of building 1,00,000 but also went on to impact the lives of over 92,00,000 people in India by building sanitation units and raising awareness about sanitation and hygiene.

Habitat India’s five sanitation verticals:

1. Independent Household Latrine (IHHL) – Construction of sanitation units in households which includes toilets in disaster resilient home

2. School Sanitation and Hygiene Education (SSHE)
a) Construction of separate toilets for girls and boy with hand wash facilities
b) Repair of existing sanitation, water and hand washing facilities including provisions for water storage

3. Community Sanitation Complex -Toilets built for urban slum settlement wherein the land is usually provided by the Urban Local Body (such as the municipal corporation)

4. Access to clean water – Ensure provision of water for use of sanitation unit 5. Behaviour Communication Change (BCC) – Use of various communication tools and techniques to enable behaviour change to increase the usage and maintenance of sanitation facilities

Habitat for Humanity India began operations in Khammam, Andhra Pradesh, in 1983. It works towards a simple vision of “A world where everyone has a decent place to live”. Among the largest Habitat programs in the Asia-Pacific region, Habitat India till date has reached out to 2,40,512 families to help them gain access to decent shelter and has built 2,39, 971 sanitation units in India. Habitat for Humanity India’s long term strategic goal for 2015-20 is to impact the lives of 25,00,000 individuals in their dream of living in a safe and a decent home.

Unique Features of the Community Sanitation Complex

• Community Driven: Maintenance and operation drive by the community
• Solar powered electricity: LED lighting with motion and light sensors and solar energy panels with  power backup.
• Access Cards: Colour coded access cards for men, women, children and the elderly.
• Social Currency: Each family member using the sanitation complex generates points every time the card is used which will be redeemable at the time of availing other amenities. The cards promote cashless transactions and benefit families by way of social currency. The card will also enable the people to carry out routine transactions like bill payments, ticket bookings etc.

Incinerator: Incinerator to dispose sanitary napkins installed in the sanitation complex

The story of Jagdish, Bairwa (Tonk, Rajasthan)

The accessibility to a toilet facility for Jagdish Bairwa’s family was a distant reality. The Bairwas live in a village named Dandela in the district of Tonk in the state of Rajasthan. It was during a village meeting that Jagdish learned about the benefits of having an enclosed toilet within the household compound. Jagdish, a mason by profession, hoped that he too could get one built for his family, as he could no longer see his family suffer and be exposed to the unsafe and unhealthy conditions of open defecation. He was able to build a toilet for his family through Habitat for Humanity India.

Jagdish Bairwa is the father of two children: 25-year-old Rameshwar and 16-year-old Lalita. Rameshwar, Jagdish’s son, suffers from polio. At the age of 16, as a school-going boy in the eighth grade, his physical condition deteriorated. He grew accustomed to being dependent on others to take him to defecate in the open. Today, he uses the toilet built in the backyard of his house by Habitat for Humanity India. Jagdish’s wife, Gulab, likes the toilet because she does not have to go the open fields. She says “Using the new toilet came naturally.” Now that the toilet is in her backyard, she is happy that she does not have to waste time going to the toilet in the open fields and can use the extra time to do housework and look after her family. Lalita, 16, daughter of Jagdish and Gulab, enjoys the time she saves. Previously, it took her about an hour to go and return from the fields, where she had to take time to find a suitable spot to relieve herself. The family was also provided training on the proper way to use the toilet and how to keep it clean.

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