SANITATION – enabling hygeine, dignity & security

Jeevika Trust works in villages that do not have sanitation systems of any kind. Open fields and non-farmable wooded areas are their lavatories. Men and boys relieve themselves during the day. To maximise privacy, women relieve themselves at night. Mothers and fathers accompany their small children but, when young boys and girls are old enough, they go alone. Night-time presents a dangerous situation for adolescent boys, girls and women – and an opportunity for deprived (if not depraved) men who seek illicit sexual pleasure or retribution – as the Badaun rape case highlighted in our blog demonstrates.

women toilet india

Our partners - WORD in Tamil Nadu and JRP in Odisha – work closely with families to bring hygiene, dignity and security to village life. Both partners train women and men to build toilets for themselves. This involves learning how to make latrines, construct toilet shelters with hand-made bricks, fit toilet pans and doors, and paint and line walls with tiles. Due to the scarcity of water, the toilet is serviced by using water from a bucket to sluice the waste away. By western standards, this is still a basic form of sanitation. For villagers living in remote villages, owning your own toilet is close to luxury.

JRP also provides sanitation facilities in schools. This includes a system of water collection tanks which catch the monsoon rain and makes it available for drinking as well as for use in the school latrines with links to a wash basin so that children may wash their hands. Toilets in schools are vital in attracting and keeping pubescent girls at school. The education of a pubescent girl ends when school toilets are not available.

girls school india

Eco Clubs are also formed in these schools for students to learn about the environmental cycle and enables them to use water, soil, seeds and saplings to plant out their own kitchen garden and provide shade within the school grounds. The fruit and vegetables they produce contribute to the midday meal the school provides (often an incentive for poor parents to send their children to school). In these ways, children learn about hygiene, the value of privacy, and the need for environmental sustainability.

 

Help villagers build more toilets & water harvesting systems

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Can better sanitation reduce rape in India?

The Badaun rape case has shocked the world, with the disturbing image of the teenage girls hanging in the tree being shared millions of times on social media.  It has highlighted once again the fact that the Indian Government has done little or nothing to address the sanitation needs of poor women in rural India. 

india toiletTwo girls stepped out of their house in Katra Village in Uttar Pradesh on a hot May night, two months ago to relieve themselves in the fields- just like millions of other women in the country do. They never returned and their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the village the next morning.

A postmortem examination confirmed that the girls had been raped and died from strangulation as they were hanged while still alive. The girls belonged to a Dalit family, who are the poorest of the poor, illiterate or semi literate with little or no assets. The alleged perpetrators, who were arrested only after a public outcry and the local police officials investigating the crime, belonged to a higher class.

The incident has once again raised the specter of poor or no sanitation in villages. Lack of basic facilities, like toilets inside every household, is a root cause of several social and health related problems not only for women but also for men.

According to the 2011 census, 53 percent of households in India did not have toilets. The figure was much higher in the rural areas, almost 70 percent.

Several reports have indicated that a high number of rape incidents take place when women defecate in open fields. Women unlike men can step out of their houses only when it is dark, as extra responsibilities inside and outside their homes, family size (most families are at least seven to eight in number) and cramped surroundings do not give them the privacy for their ablutions.

Access to proper toilets, preferably inside each and every household, will help women maintain a measure of basic dignity and of course privacy. This in turn will reduce the risk of any such untoward incidents. Many parents pull girl children out of schools, as soon as they reach puberty, as most Government owned educational institutions have poor or no sanitation facilities.

india toiletLack of sanitation can lead not to only rape and assault but also health hazards. A number of health related issues including diseases like Urinary Track Infection (UTI), constipation and poor menstrual hygiene are a consequence of lack of sanitation.

While building toilets are important and a pressing need, it is important to generate awareness about hygiene and sanitation, especially among youth and adolescent women.

Jeevika Trust through its partners in Tamil Nadu and Orissa have constructed toilets in schools and homes and provided facilities such as overhead tanks and pipes and faucets to ensure running water and promote proper hygiene among students, adolescent girls and rural women.

 During the election campaign, Narendra Modi made a statement ‘pehle shauchalya, phir devalaya’ (toilets first, temple later). Now, with a Prime Minister who purports to understands the importance of toilets, it is important that the newly elected Government prioritizes this issue, and builds toilets in private and public spaces to end open-air defecation.

Support Jeevika Trust in building toilets and providing young girls and women the dignity, security and privacy they are entitled to.

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Sanitary Napkins, a taboo…

Jeevika Trust want to address the conservative taboo that menstruation is dirty and meet the needs of girls and women of reproductive age in village India to have access to hygienic, cost-effective, eco-disposable sanitary napkins. Access to sanitary napkins is a health issue and the UN have branded the stigma a “violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to dignity.” Ideally, the women want to make them for themselves and other poor villagers.

And we would love to hear your ideas about how we can help them do this.

menstruation women india

Do you know why sanitary napkins are more than a piece of cloth?

  • 74% of rural women use unsanitized cloth during menstruation
  • In the poorest villages, where there is no access to a spare piece of cloth, women will use gunny (hessian) bags, sand, ash, rice husk or newspaper to stem their flow which creates Reproductive Tract Infections
  • The same piece of cloth is often used repeatedly over a long period of time – and sometimes by women in the same household – and not adequately washed or dried, which is unhygienic
  • Lack of access to menstrual hygiene – which includes sanitary napkins, toilets in schools, availability of water, privacy and safe disposal – sees some 23% of girls drop-out from school.

Are you aware that menstruation defines the life of women and girls in India?

  • Average menstruation age is 13.4 years – in many villages this is considered the age from which girls can marry
  • One in 6 girls in India begin child-bearing between the ages of 13-16
  • 50% of all girls urban and rural have no understanding of this basic biological process
  • Maternal mortality in India represents 15% of all deaths of women of reproductive age
  • Taboos around menstruation include being required to sleep outdoors, not being able to touch food consumed by others, attend family functions or enter temples.

india rubbish

Some ecological & health impacts of disposable napkins

  • Most disposable pads end up littering village roadsides or are burned in huge trash heaps which release toxins from plastics into the atmosphere
  • Popular branded sanitary napkins/tampons, eg. Stayfree, Whisper, Playtex, Tampex, etc, are made up of plastic fleece, plastic-based gel, polyethylene and chlorine, all of which are highly toxic and are linked to cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and Reproductive Tract Infections
  • It is estimated 58,500 million pads would be generated each year if every woman of reproductive age in India used disposable sanitary napkins
  • A disposable pad is estimated to take between 500-800 years to decompose.

Central Government solutions in 17 States have cost Rs 44.21 million = approx. £440,000

  • While this has so far provided 15 million school girls, new mothers & women prisoners with sanitary napkins, supplies are insufficient and do not adequately address need for safe disposal.

Jeevika has many ideas about how to address these issues but is still developing a suitable strategy to enable village women and girls to design a strategy to make & dispose of sanitary napkins for themselves & others in a cost-effective, hygienic, eco-friendly way.

If you have any ideas you would like to contribute to this strategy – no matter how wild – we would love to hear from you!

Email now! becky@jeevika.org.uk

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