As part of the national effort to include everyone, everywhere to access improved sanitation, provide equal opportunities for persons with disabilities (PwDs) and menstruating women and school girls, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS), Government of India on December 22nd launched the ‘Handbook on Accessible Household Sanitation facilities for Persons with Disabilities’ in association with WaterAid India and ‘Guidelines on Menstrual Hygiene Management’ in collaboration with UNICEF.
The Ministry also launched a Swachh Bharat Gramin App for Windows and Android mobile phones. The app provides data on the number of toilets constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission in India and can be disaggregated down to the Gram Panchayat level.
Inspite of the enabling policies and guidelines at national and state level, there have been challenges faced by implementers and service providers because of lack of appropriate and cost effective technology options which are PwD friendly, adequate information on inclusive toilet designs not reaching the district and block functionaries, inherent existing challenges in inter-sectoral coordination and lack of skilled organisations.
“Our government is committed to sanitation for all. There are existing building standards specified by the government for toilets in schools, public buildings and institutions. This handbook will be used for space and design norms with the intention to ensure that everyone including physically disabled and elderly persons will have unhindered access to household toilets,” said Ram Kripal Yadav, Hon’ble Minister of State, Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, Government of India.
These guidelines can be used by government functionaries, water and sanitation engineers, representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions, WASH sector professionals, disabled people’s organisations and disability service providers, and organisations representing or working with other socially excluded groups.
“We are at the cusp of a momentous chapter in national efforts to include everyone, everywhere in accessing sanitation and I heartily congratulate the Ministry for launching this much needed handbook. WaterAid acknowledges the robust collaborations, effective partnerships and immense support from communities, individuals and families, Government officials, networks, and practitioners from various sectors with whose efforts, contributions and achievements this handbook was made possible,” said Neeraj Jain, Chief Executive, WaterAid India.
Through this handbook, the Government aims to ensure:
- Improved knowledge and awareness of communities on disability and counter barriers to access
- Inclusion of PwDs in decision making processes including representational spaces like the village water and sanitation committees, parent teacher associations and school management committees
- Improve capacities of service providers (including PHED functionaries), local government institutions, disabled people’s organisations and civil society organisations to ensure inclusive and accessible WASH programming at households, communities and institutions level
- Barrier free accessible and cost effective models in WASH for in households, schools and institutions
Francis Odhiambo, WASH Specialist, UNICEF at the launch said, “Menstruation despite being a biological function remains a source of shame and embarrassment and is a social taboo for young women and girls. As a result, it has a disruptive effect on routine functions as studies show that a lot of young girls drop out of mainstream schooling once they attain puberty. There is a strong need to address this stigma attached to menstruation, women and girls need to be empowered with information, education and material in order to effectively demystify menstruation and manage their menstrual hygiene. I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation for this important initiative. We now collectively need to ensure that all stakeholders especially at the grassroots level are aware of the guidelines and use them to ensure menstrual hygiene management of young girls and women thus boosting their confidence and empowering them to stake claim to their rightful place in society.”