Of the 600 million people in India who don’t have access to an indoor toilet or proper sanitation, more than 80% live in remote villages in rural India. The issues stemming from open defecation and lack of indoor toilets include
the spread of diarrheal diseases and other health problems, economic losses, and critical safety issues for women.
However, India’s sanitation and hygiene issues will not end by simply building toilets. The real challenge is persuading people to use the toilets. Many people in India are not accustomed to indoor toilets; they do not believe they are sanitary or in accordance with their religious beliefs, among other reasons. In fact, many toilets built in India go unused or are transformed into storage spaces, while the family continues to use the open fields as their bathroom.
Each village selected for NVP undergoes careful scrutiny, surveys and data collection, and meetings with the community leaders and other key stakeholders to ensure that everyone knows the proper use and maintenance of these toilets. The villagers are selected to be field managers, and local masons and construction workers are employed to build the toilets, creating jobs and boosting the economy. This comprehensive community engagement gives the entire village a sense of ownership over this project, making them more likely to stay involved and continue using the toilets and implementing the sanitation training they received.
From the time our on-ground partner (Environmental Sanitation Institute) arrives at the site, various sanitation trainings, educational seminars, and awareness programs are run for both children and adults. These programs not only include information on the dangers of outdoor defecation, but also on hygiene best practices. We tailor educational programs to children, women, and men individually; teachers and school staff; and local health professionals. By targeting each group with specific messages, we ensure the information is appropriately received.
After the toilet building phase is completed, each village will be visited after the first six months, then again annually. These visits include monitoring and assessment of the toilets. The field managers and local leaders will be consulted on the usage of the toilets, each family will be surveyed, and sanitation awareness campaigns will be run again to refresh the community on best practices. By continuing these visits, the local community stays engaged with the cause and is more likely to continue using their new indoor toilets.
To date, SCF has built 770 toilets in 5 villages in rural Gujarat. Given the success of the program so far, we are currently fundraising for an additional 750 toilets, or $97,500.