Ensuring safe WASH practices for everyone, everywhere!

Rural belts of Chhattisgarh state have been recently declared open defecation free, shifting the focus from the construction of toilets to usage and ensuring accessibility for all. While sustaining the use of toilets is key to Swachh Bharat Mission, inclusive toilets also hold equal importance, including the persons with disability (PwD) and the transgender communities.

In light of above, Chhattisgarh State Swachh Bharat Mission – Rural has initiated a pilot project in collaboration with WaterAid India, UNICEF and South Eastern Coalfield Limited (SECL). This pilot envisages to –

  • Formulate the state policy for inclusive water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) under SBM-Rural that would be essential for preparing the National Policy;
  • Design appropriate information, education and communication (IEC) material for clear understanding of disabilities and issues related to transgender persons (TGPs);
  • Orientation and sensitisation of WASH professionals on issues related to PwDs and TGPs.

On 17 April 2018, project’s launch workshop was organised in State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), Raipur. Mission Director SSBM Rural, Mr. Samir Ghosh (also the lead consultant for this project), Ms. Anjali Agrawal (Samarthyam), Ms. Krupali, Mr. VR Raman (WaterAid), and representatives of SECL and UNICEF and were the key facilitators. It was a day-long consultation to enumerate and discuss the problems faced by various categories of PwDs and TGPs. The consultation also saw the participation of over 50 PwDs and TGPs from different districts for first-hand information.

VR Raman, Head of Policy at WaterAid India, addressing the gathering
VR Raman, Head of Policy at WaterAid India, addressing the gathering

Key points emerged from the discussion are as follows:

  1. Every WASH facility must ensure three conditions- usability, flexibility (according to age, gender, and disability) and adaptability (as per an individual’s needs).
  2. The WASH facility must have arrangements for independent usage.
  3. Toilet design should follow the universal design principal (signage, approach to the facility, slop of ramps, doors, space, taps, grab bars, urinals, the height of WC, wash basins, mirrors and so on).
  4. The user should feel secure while visiting WASH facilities without any fear of harassment by people, or attack by animals/insects.
  5. Sufficient space inside the toilet, proper light, and ventilation.
  6. The access route should be open, clear, weather-proof and within the hearing/visual distance for any assistance from caregivers/community, if necessary.
  7. Toilets must guarantee privacy.
  8. Appropriate measures for menstrual hygiene management.
  9. Water facility and availability inside the toilet.
  10. Also, TGPs demanded:
    • Separate toilets in common public/community toilet complex;
    • Sensitisation modules (IEC material) on why separate toilets for TGPs are required; and
    • Gender-neutral toilets so that TGPs can also be counted among commoners.

The participants discussing the importance of safe WASH environment.

The participants discussing the importance of safe WASH environment.

The SBM guidelines have equity and inclusion as one of the major components that clearly states, ‘providing access to the different categories of people who are not able to access and use safe sanitation facilities shall be a priority of the implementing agencies’. In rural areas where the SBM funds have been used as an incentive for making toilets, accessible toilets are seldom seen. There are public toilets built through the Gram Panchayat, but they lack facilities that would be inclusive for PwDs and TGPs, and their specific needs.

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