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Positive news. Happy Stories. Unsung Heroes.

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    Lonewadi, a small village in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, got its first vastishala (a makeshift primary school arranged by the government for villages that are far away from education facilities) in the year 2005. Mr. Ingle was appointed as the first teacher. Slowly, the vastishala was converted into a proper primary school and it was decided that one more teacher was needed. But who would want to be posted in a remote village like Lonewadi? Surprisingly, there was one teacher who actually insisted that the authorities transfer him to this village. This teacher, who joined the primary school at Lonewadi in December 2005, was about to change things very soon. The teacher’s name was Parsharam Narwade. Unlike most other government school teachers, he did not plan to teach just text book contents to the children of Lonewadi. His vision was to impart wisdom along with knowledge to his students. And his mission was to make each child a responsible citizen of the country.

    Narwade began with the basics! His first lessons addressed something very fundamental to existence, that is, the importance of nature.

    1 Narwade would take his students for 2 km long walks through the jungle near school, something like the field trips arranged by reputed and expensive schools in cities. However, there was a difference. The field trips of the Lonewadi school were not just entertaining and educational for the kids but also taught them the importance of preserving and growing forests. The walks would begin with the children collecting seeds of neem and tamarind trees. Once they had all their seeds, the students had to count them and the kid with the maximum number of seeds was rewarded. This also helped the children improve their math skills.

    The next step was to find places where they could sow the seeds in the jungle. The seeds need had to be planted inside the bushes that grow near big trees so the saplings would get the initial support they needed to grow.

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    “I have had this habit since childhood. My mother always asked us to sow the seeds of the fruits we ate on the way to the school. We stayed in Kharus village in the Yavatmal district and my school was 4 km away in Dhanki. We used to throw the seeds in the jungle on the way to school and also take care of the plants when the seedlings sprouted,” says Narwade.

    Narwade and his little student army also made nests for the birds in the forest and placed water pots for them to quench their thirst.

    3 In the year 2012, the NGO Shivprabha Charitable Trust came to the village of Lonewadi. At the time, the village lacked water facilities, electricity and roads. In the same year, Narwade became a member of the Trust and started working on all these fronts. Today, the village has paved roads, a solar operated water distribution system and electricity, thanks to the efforts of the NGO.

    The Trust has also constructed one bio-toilet in the village and is now on a mission to make the entire village open defecation free.

    4 The village has 41 households. Therefore, only 40 more toilets need to be built in the village to fulfill this aim. The Better India appeals to its readers to help make this beautiful and inspirational village meet its target by contributing money for the construction of toilets.
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonewadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
    Unable to view the above button? Click here

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. NEW: Click here to get positive news on Whatsapp!


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    When nature calls, you have to answer. But, finding a clean public restroom in India, irrespective of whether its a city or a village, is no mean feat. You either end up having an experience awful enough to feature in 'Public Bathroom Horror Stories', or you are forced to just hold it in till you are bursting at the seams. If you are travelling and are worried about locating a clean public toilet, fret not. Among the plethora of apps jostling for space inside your smartphone, there’s one that will have you sending a silent note of thanks to its creators every time you click on it — it helps you locate the nearest public toilet and even tells you how clean it is!

    The innovative app, called Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator, was pioneered by an IAS couple, Vipul Ujwal and Sonali Giri from Punjab.

    [caption id="attachment_76124" align="aligncenter" width="759"]ias Vipul Ujwal and Sonali Giri[/caption]
    Photo Source
    In January 2015, Vipul Ujwal, the then municipal commissioner of Moga in Punjab, and his wife Sonali Giri, the then additional deputy commissioner of Faridkot in Punjab were visiting Delhi. While in Connaught Place, one of Delhi's most frequented areas, Giri was unable to find a single clean washroom. And thus an idea was born. Ujwal says,
    "My wife wanted to use the washroom and we simply couldn’t find one. That’s when it struck us that there is a need for the government to release an app which gives detailed information."
    For the next four months, the 2009 batch IAS couple developed an app to locate a public toilet, that also gave a cleanliness report based on user reviews. The couple also added some fairly advanced and helpful features that would provide information such as whether the toilet Indian or Western-style, free or paid, and whether it has additional features such as seats for the differently abled or the availability of sanitary pad dispensers. It also has a interface where user can rate public restrooms on hygiene, infrastructure and safety.
    You May LikeTech for Toilets: How a Mobile App Is Helping MP Villagers Get Toilets Constructed
    Working with Neeraj Sharma and Rajeev Mathur (batchmates from Institute of Management Studies (Bikaner) who pitched in with their expertise), the couple co-ordinated with municipal sanitary inspectors to map all the 600 toilets across urban centres in Punjab. The couple then approached the Union Urban Development Ministry which showed keen interest in adopting the app and asked them to upload at least 50,000 locations from across the country to make the app helpful for users. toilet-1-08-1457444429
    Photo Source
    In the Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator app, all listed toilets are physically verified with images attached to their descriptions. They have also been categorised for gender specific search. Ujwal says,
    "If user ratings are bad or slide considerably, the app would flag these toilets to the respective urban local bodies, which will have to remedy the situation. The idea is to not only to locate but also improve the toilets, most of which are not maintained well."
    The app also encourages citizens to be more actively involved in realizing the dream of Swachh Bharat by being a volunteer, and help by physically verifying the toilets submitted by fellow citizens. So, if a toilet is dirty, or permanently closed, user feedback could help others avoid that property. Pretty much like a Zomato for toilets! Today, the Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator app functions as an independent toilet locator app of the Ministry of Urban Development. The app will also be collaborating with the soon-to-be launched Google Toilet Locator, increasing its outreach manifold. However, while the idea of having a public toilet locator is novel, its success will hinge on its effective implementation. Other than being a crucial factor in the Indian government's plan for a Swachch Bharat, access to clean public toilets is also one of the most important rights of citizens. This makes it important that toilet locator apps don't just focus on tracking public toilets, but also steadily work towards making them more hygienic and accessible. [caption id="attachment_76123" align="aligncenter" width="800"]800px-pay__use_toilet_-_new_alipore_-_kolkata_2011-10-03_030319 A public toilet in Kolkata[/caption]
    Photo Source
    As for the enterprising IAS couple, this isn't the first time that they have come up with a unique initiative  - they are also credited with the creation of the iVote app. Launched during the 2014 General Elections in Punjab, the app had several features such as directions to the one’s polling booth, information about contesting candidates, a comprehensive model code of conduct for ready reference and an easy complaint submission mechanism. Incidentally, the couple was honoured on National Voters Day, January 25, 2015, for iVote, and it was while they were in Delhi for the aforementioned event that the two hit upon the idea of developing the public toilets app! Known for their perseverance, vision and attention to detail, this young IAS couple's biggest strength is their dedication to the nation. It is due to innovative and pro-active officers like Vipul Ujwal and Sonali Giri that a positive change in Indian governance is finally rolling in. We wish them all the best in all their future endeavours.
    Also ReadHow a Young IAS Officer Used Education to Transform the Naxal-Affected District of Dantewada
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
    Unable to view the above button? Click here

    Like this story? Have something to share? Email: contact@thebetterindia.com, or join us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia). NEW! Log into www.gettbi.com to get positive news on Whatsapp.


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    Ashish and Ruta Kalawar left their well-paying jobs in England and returned to India to help empower the rural citizens of the country. Help them make their adopted village open-defecation free! Fifteen years ago, Ashish Kalawar, a young electronics engineer posted in Bokaro, was waiting at the station for a train to his hometown of Pune. A little boy approached him and offered to polish his shoes. Ashish immediately told the kid that at his age he should be going to school and not working. The boy replied that he was working to support his education and used the money he earned from polishing shoes to pay for school. Impressed with his spirit and determination, Ashish let him do his work and paid him double the price for the shoeshine. The boy was delighted and could not stop himself from jumping with joy.
    “It cost me just an extra Rs.10 but I could see how much happiness this little act of kindness gave him. I was content with my life but the satisfaction I got from looking at his face was priceless. This incident has stayed in my heart ever since.”
    Ashish’s career was growing fast. He now felt it was time for him to get married and settle down. When he met Ruta, another electronics engineer, his happiness was complete.

    The couple married and, in 2009, moved to the United Kingdom in search of better paying jobs. As their income grew, the two thought they should apply for citizenship to that country.

    [caption id="attachment_75830" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]1-4 Ruta and Ashish Kalawar[/caption]
    “We had everything, a nice car, a beautiful house in the UK and a great future to look forward to. But, somehow, we were not at peace,” says Ashish.
    Soon, the couple started visiting the Skanda Vale temple located in South Wales frequently. They would volunteer their time at the temple on weekends and find solace in meditation and helping others.  They also participated in a 7 km charity walk to raise funds for the Skanda Vale hospice.
    “While volunteering at this temple I kept remembering the little boy back in Bokaro who had polished my shoes. I wanted to do something for him and other people in my motherland too,” he adds.
    Ashish and Ruta finally found their mission in life when they visited India for a short period in 2012. One of their relatives, Amol Sainwar, had started an NGO called Shivprabha Charitable Trust and was planning to adopt a remote village in Maharashtra.

    The village, Lonwadi in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, was located on a hill. It had no electricity, no water system and no roads. Ashish and Ruta visited this village along with other team members of the Shivprabha Charitable Trust.

    [caption id="attachment_75827" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]1-3 Ashish and Ruta with the kids of Lonwadi[/caption] The villagers had to go down the hill every day to fetch water and so, the first thing they needed was a solar-operated water pump to draw water to the top of the hill.  Another thing that Ashish and Ruta noticed was that many villagers in Lonwadi were victims of addiction to alcohol or tobacco. They wanted to do something about both these issues but it was time for them to return to England. They did the best they could under the circumstances by donating some money for the water system and left the country again. Meanwhile, Shivprabha Charitable Trust continued to work for the betterment of the village.
    “My friend Unmesh Kulkarni and I raised 90% of the funds required for the water project. After its implementation, the number of students in the school increased as well because the children were freed from water-fetching duties. This incident really inspired and motivated me to move to India and work for rural empowerment.”

    In January 2014, Ashish and Ruta left their lucrative jobs and bright professional careers behind to pack their bags and return to the motherland.

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    “This was the first time I did not have a job in hand while leaving the previous one. But I was not afraid at all. Something made me feel that this was right. Moreover, Ruta helped me believe that if we were doing something good there was nothing to worry about,” says Ashish.

    Back in Lonwadi, Ashish and Ruta started counselling the villagers suffering from addictions and holding meditation sessions for them. According to Ashish, within six months, around 80% of the villagers were addiction-free.

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    “I never asked the villagers to stop consuming alcohol or tobacco. I asked them to just join us for meditation. The self realisation that occurs when you meditate compels you to stay away from everything negative,” says Ruta.
    Today Lonwadi has good roads, electricity, a water system, and a digital school too – thanks to the efforts of the Shivprabha Charitable Trust and people like Ashish and Ruta. Now, this village is just one step away from being an ideal village – it still needs to become open-defecation free. Ashish and Ruta’s counselling sessions have helped the villagers realise the importance of using toilets. All households have applied for subsidies to build toilets at home but have not heard back from the government as yet. Therefore, Shivprabha and The Better India have come together to find ways of gifting toilets to all the households in  Lonwadi. We appeal to our readers to donate generously and help the villagers’ dream of living in an open-defecation free ideal village become a reality.
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
    Unable to view the above button? Click here

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. NEW: Click here to get positive news on Whatsapp!


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    A young girl from Lonwadi village recalls how her village has developed in the past four years but one important thing is still missing. Rukmina is a 16-year-old girl from the village Lonwadi in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. Lonwadi was one of the most underdeveloped villages of Maharashtra until four years ago, when Shivprabha Charitable Trust adopted it.

    Rukmina spoke to The Better India about how her village has been transformed into a self sustainable village in the past four years but how there is still one important thing that is missing.

    [caption id="attachment_76763" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]rukmina Rukmina[/caption] “Namaskar! My name is Rukmina Vilas Bhuse. I stay in the village of Lonwadi with my parents, grandparents and six siblings. My oldest sister used to also live with us but since she is married now there are just 11 at home. Both my parents work on our farm and we help them too. We don’t take our youngest brother to the farm but the rest of us have to help them earn a livelihood so they can feed us.

    Despite all the hardship, I am proud of the fact that all of us go to school.

    [caption id="attachment_76765" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]rukmina2 Rukmina with her family.[/caption] One of my older sisters has appeared for Class 12 and wishes to study further. I am the third oldest one and am in Class 10. My other two sisters are in Class 8 and Class 6. The village school is up to Class 5 only so the three of us go to Khadakdari, 7 km away from our village to study. The rest of my siblings study here in the Lonwadi school.

    This school has changed drastically in the past four years. My sisters say they can operate a computer now and they do many extra-curricular activities too.

    [caption id="attachment_76771" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]rukmina5 The Digital School at Lonwadi[/caption] Much has changed in our village too in recent years. I remember, as a kid, we used to get water from a small lake down the hill. But now there is this pump that does the work and all we have to do is fill water from the taps. There’s electricity too, which makes life so much easier. The irrigation facility provided by the NGO has been a blessing; now my parents don’t have to sit idle for the six months it does not rain, nor do they have to migrate from the village to find work. My mother also contributes by working in the Gruh Udyog (handicraft unit) started by them. Thank God some roads were built before we started going to the Khadakdari School, otherwise we would have to walk all the way. Now, a tempo comes to pick up and drop us from school.

    The only thing that I miss in my village is a toilet. The NGO that helped us get all the other facilities has also built two toilets in the school and a common toilet in the village.

    [caption id="attachment_76772" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]The common bio-toilet built by Shivprabha Charitable Trust at Lonwadi. The common bio-toilet built by Shivprabha Charitable Trust at Lonwadi.[/caption] But that’s not enough. I wish there was a toilet in my house too. I am 16 years old now and I feel shy about going to the jungle. But there is no other option. There are snakes, scorpions and other dangerous insects around the place where we go. It’s scary, especially in the rainy season. Moreover, we have to sit somewhere between the bushes to hide ourselves.

    My brother is too young to go alone to the jungle so one of us has to accompany him every time. And it’s difficult for him too. He often comes back crying because he gets pricked by thorns or is bitten by ants.

    [caption id="attachment_76775" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]rukmina4 Rukmina's youngest brother[/caption] My father tells us every year that he will build a toilet at home. But we know his financial condition. How can he?
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
    Unable to view the above button? Click here  

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. NEW: Click here to get positive news on Whatsapp!


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    Kotabharri village in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh is home to 104-year-old Kunwarbai Yadav who is known by many as the lady who sold her goats to construct a toilet near her house, and became a role model for the entire village. It was during a public meeting in the village when Kunwarbai came to know about the various diseases that can spread due to open defecation. This encouraged her to do something on her own to change the practice. She sold eight goats and constructed the toilet for Rs. 22,000. After this, she also went from door to door, motivating other villagers to construct toilets in their homes. "After constructing a toilet in my home I forced other people in the village to do the same. I told them that it is very useful. Now we don’t have to go to the forest for defecation. People came to my house and saw the toilet. They followed us and gradually the whole village had toilets in every house," she says.

    This is her story:

    [embedvideo id="__XKHjRHbkY" website="youtube"]
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
    Unable to view the above button? Click here

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. NEW: Click here to get positive news on WhatsApp!


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    Ever wonder about the efficiency of the modern toilet and water-based sewage systems? The conventional toilet design uses large amounts of water with each flush, something which just isn’t sustainable in the long run, and completely impossible in areas that suffer from water shortage, which defines a majority of India. So obviously simply building toilets where there isn't enough water is impractical. This is why initiatives like Ecosan are so interesting and necessary, and will in the future end up transforming the way we design, build and use toilets. In these toilets, there is no need to flush and the urine and faecal matter is utilised as valuable urea and manure. In one stroke, human refuse is turned into a useful resource, water is saved and there is no sewage!

    Here's the story of how Ecosan toilets have been slowly but surely bringing a sanitation revolution in rural India.

    [caption id="attachment_78653" align="aligncenter" width="800"]mobile-toilet-at-auroville-copy A mobile Ecosan toilet[/caption]
    Photo Source
    A strikingly underwhelming figure, Marachi Subburaman certainly does not look like the kind of man who has helped build more than 20,000 toilets in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirapalli district and established a toilet design that is nothing short of the ideal, especially for rural India. In 1976, 26-year-old Subburaman started working for an organisation in Andhra Pradesh that helped poor people build low-cost houses. As a part of his job, he used to go from village to village, dealing with several types of building material. Once when he was visiting a village, he wanted to relieve himself in the morning. On asking the villagers, he was horrified to find out that the villagers relieved themselves by the water tank, which was also the village's source of drinking water. He ended up building an improvised toilet in the village that day. It was also the day when he decided to do something about the lack of sanitation in the region. In 1986, Subburaman formed an organisation called Society for Community Organisation and People's Education (SCOPE) in Trichy. While its main focus was on creating avenues for women's groups to improve their incomes, SCOPE also took up several projects to build toilets, along with its other efforts. Subburaman soon realised that a major part of household savings were eaten up by medical expenditure on treating infectious diseases, many of which were rife because drinking water was contaminated with faeces. So, when the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (launched in 1986 to provide grants to construct toilets in villages) reached Trichy, Subburaman persuaded the district authorities to invest all the funds in one village. The idea was to make sanitation work in an entire village. Thus, Devapuram in Trichy became a model village for sanitation in 1990. In 1997, when the central government was reviewing CRSP, SCOPE was invited to the committee that formulated the Total Sanitation Campaign (later renamed the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan). Subburaman's organization was also among the initial winners of the Nirmal Gram Puraskar. [caption id="attachment_78656" align="aligncenter" width="602"]best-water-ngo-water-sanitation0 M Subburaman receiving the Water Digest award[/caption]
    Photo Source
    At that time, as a part of TSC, SCOPE was working on intensive toilet construction in a region called Musiri. As Musiri had an irrigation canal from the river Cauvery running through it, percolation from the canal had raised the water table of the area. This had made it impossible to make and use toilet pits constructed under government’s sanitation programme. Water collected in the pit was unable to percolate down because the soil was already saturated with water. Also, very few could afford Rs 30,000-40,000 to build a concrete septic tank, where water flows out into a drain instead of percolating down. So, the excreta used to float up, especially six months after the rainy season. That's when Subburaman heard about a toilet innovation by a British marine engineer, Paul Calvert. Calvert worked each winter along the coast of Thiruvananthapuram in a fishing village where open defecation was widespread. The high water table in the area made toilet pits difficult to construct, and even more difficult to use, as the waste floated up.
    Also Read: An NRI Couple Shows Us How to Return to India and Transform Its Villages
    So, based on Swedish planner Uno Winblad's Ecosan toilet design (his book Ecological Sanitation is a bible for those looking for sustainable ways of sanitation) , Calvert had designed a toilet with separate receptacles for urine and faeces, with two different chambers underneath. When one filled up, it was sealed and the other one was opened. After faeces had dried up and decomposed thoroughly in the sealed chamber, the excreta turned into manure that could be used for crops. Urine, almost entirely free of germs, was diverted to a vessel from where it was applied to plants after being diluted with water; urine is a rich source of urea and phosphate for plants.   [caption id="attachment_78662" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]inside_of_the_uddt_5332645379 Inside an Ecosan Urine Diversion Toilet (EUDT)[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Calvert's toilet design made sanitation available in the village with high water table. Subburaman was immediately drawn to Calvert’s story. Working with Calvert, who he invited to Tamil Nadu, Subburaman created a cheaper and simpler to use design that would meet Musiri's requirements. In his design, called Ecosan Urine Diversion Toilet (EUDT), Subburaman designed one pan with one hole at each end for faeces (instead of two parallel pans), with two separate chambers underneath. In between was the hole to urinate into, which remained common regardless of which side of the pan was in use and which was sealed off to allow the faeces to decompose. In this pan, the user has to move back after defecating to cleanse himself or herself with water that went out separately The urine, faeces and cleansing water go into separate holes. The separation is the key: it allows each to be dealt with at little to no cost. There are several reasons this design is so good. One, it contains the millions of pathogens found in faeces – one gramme of faeces can contain up to 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, over 1,000 parasitic cysts, and over a 100 eggs of worms – and prevents them from escaping and infecting other people. When the faeces dry out and remain isolated in a chamber over weeks and months, they decompose and break down into harmless soil nutrients – what they indeed were before humans ate the food: nutrients from the soil prepared into food. This means valuable soil nutrients take out in the form of crops are returned to the soil. Called the closing the loop on nutrients by scientists, this process mimics the way nutrients are recycled in nature and  is ideal for soil conservation without the risk of infection.   [caption id="attachment_78655" align="aligncenter" width="600"]large_ecosan-india An Ecosan toilet in rural India[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Secondly, Ecosan toilets save water and electricity, the two biggest expenses in water-borne sewerage by eliminating the need for sewage treatment plants, elaborate sewer network, and the expenses on maintenance and operations of such systems. Thirdly, this also means that it can provide sanitation in extreme areas; in desert areas, where water scarcity necessitates frugal use of water; in rocky areas, where it is not possible to dig for pits and sewers; in coastal and flooded areas, with very high water tables; in earthquake prone zones, as there is no danger of sewage leaking through cracked sewer lines or pits. In fact, this method got a big boost in the efforts to rehabilitate coastal areas destroyed by the 2004 tsunami as Ecosan toilets could contain excreta (and the infections it could unleash) even in water-logged areas. So, in the 1990s, SCOPE used Subbaraman's tweaked design to make a public Ecosan toilet in Musiri. Today, if you go to Musiri, panchayat leaders proudly take visitors to see their urine-diverting dry public toilet. There are seven toilets for men and seven for women. Each has two pits under it, which are opened and sealed in rotation. The urine goes through a charcoal filter and is collected. From here, it is taken in vessels to an experimental farm, where the benefits of these nutrients in increasing productivity and savings on chemical fertilizers have been studied and documented. [caption id="attachment_78663" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]untitled-design-3 The Ecosan toilets at Musiri[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Subburaman's design and Musiri have become the inspiration for several sanitation efforts across the country that are experimenting with Ecosan designs that suit local conditions. ome examples of thriving models of these toilets can be seen in Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, Bihar and Ladakh. Voluntary organization like Myrada, Eco Solutions, UNICEF, WaterAction, Wherever The Need (WTN) etc. have designed toilets that are running efficiently in urban, semi-urban, rural and coastal areas. As the nation embarks on the Swachh Bharat Mission to end open defecation, Ecosan Urine Diversion Toilet (EUDT) offers an inexpensive and easy-to-operate alternative to traditional waste disposal. Here's a short video that explains how these zero-waste toilets can help India meet the new Sustainable Development Goals while supporting the Indian government’s vision of a cleaner, healthier society. [embedvideo id="SB-cTsGkmK0" website="youtube"]
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
    Unable to view the above button? Click here Like this story? Have something to share? Email: contact@thebetterindia.com, or join us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia). NEW! Log into www.gettbi.com to get positive news on Whatsapp.

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    Sixteen-year-old Soulya is championing the cause of WASH in her community, trying to bring about a change one step at a time, and making her way to becoming a role-model in her community. For an outsider who steps into the slums of Govandi East for the first time, the smell that hits them first. Next they are greeted by the sight of open drainage lines that run on both sides of the slum alleys. While many criticise these conditions, few step in and work towards improving them. The population in Govandi, according to studies, is vulnerable to many health problems because of their proximity to India’s largest dumping ground in Deonar. Issues surrounding Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) have been in the spotlight for decades, and organizations like Save the Children and Apnalaya have engaged the people in the area through their unique workshops and programmes to create awareness about these. As a part of WASH4Life programme, Soulya is one of the many youngsters of the community who are determined to act as catalysts of social change, one step at a time. At the tender age of 16, Soulya has strong opinions, and is vocal about the issues in her neighborhood. She was 12 when she first received information about menstruation in the school she studied in.
    “The school did educate us about the topic, explaining to us about the changes a girl’s body goes through. But, given the taboos associated with talking about menstruation, our teacher wrapped up the topic quickly. We were taken to a separate class for the session and boys were not a part of it. I think even if boys don’t menstruate, they too should be educated about it,” says Soulya.
    She went on to express her disapproval of the custom that women are not allowed to enter the kitchen when they are menstruating. “Is this correct?” she asks. Candid and outspoken during interviews, she continued her story, “I started attending the health sessions at Apnalaya a little after I turned 13. I found their sessions detailed and helpful. They helped us understand the changes in our body during the course of puberty. They promoted menstrual hygiene by teaching us how to use sanitary napkins The ‘teacher didis there are very sensitive to our needs and questions.” Soulya’s parents were not convinced of the need to send their daughter to attend these sessions because of the taboo attached to it. However, she went on to become a trainer herself, encouraging other girls and women from the community to attend these sessions. [caption id="attachment_78700" align="aligncenter" width="500"]thumb_img_4320_1024 Determined and confident, Soulya fearlessly voices her opinion and calls for action.[/caption] “My father did not speak to me for days when I went against his wishes and conducted training sessions. I tried convincing him many times, but he would not budge, and said that such meetings are useless,” Soulya remembers sadly. Her mother also stopped her from undertaking such sessions because of the notions of ‘shame’ and ‘dignity’ attached to them. But she eventually came around, “My mother has now begun to understand what I stand for. Convincing her was tough, but she acknowledges the change it has brought about in all our lives.” It was only when one of the teachers from Apnalaya visited their house and talked to Soulya’s parents that they took her work seriously. “Teacher didi convinced my mother, telling her that I was educating the community and that her daughter would make her proud someday.” The WASH4Life workshop taught Soulya and other youngsters from the area basic photography skills. The youngsters were given cameras at the end of the workshop to click photographs reflecting elements of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in their surroundings. “I could not believe my eyes when I saw the photographs. So much filth! Although I was aware that we were living in unhygienic conditions, to see those conditions highlighted in these photographs is disturbing. Most of the illnesses in our community are because of poor sanitation and hygiene. I, along with my friends from the workshop, have thus taken it upon ourselves to educate people in the basic steps towards better hygiene and sanitation,” Soulya proclaims with an air of confidence and determination. [caption id="attachment_78723" align="aligncenter" width="500"]dsc06918 Children living in Govandi are the most exposed and vulnerable to illnesses related to hygiene and sanitation. The State must press for better measures in tackling these.[/caption] Soulya draws attention to the changes in her own household post the workshop, “Previously, members of my household would wash their hands only with water. Now, they use soap and follow the 10 steps of hand-washing.” She proudly states that her two younger brothers now follow her practices diligently. It will take some time for her parents to completely accept this change. Soulya believes that changing community behavior is a herculean task, “My parents prove that one cannot expect change overnight. Often, my neighbors ask me to mind my own business. They think we are children who do not know anything. For them, a 16-year-old girl must stay indoors and take care of her younger siblings.” Soulya has had to overcome innumerable such difficulties in her journey. She believes that government agencies must be more responsible, “Health workers and doctors should hold seminars for the community. To the people, that would mean that the government is looking out for them. The people also heed professional advice, and that is a small step towards better health. We also need better and affordable health facilities near the slums so that people don’t have to travel too far.” [caption id="attachment_78726" align="aligncenter" width="500"]thumb_img_4327_1024 Lived realities such as these portray a multi-faceted experience of the population living in the slums of Shivajinagar, Govandi.[/caption] There is no stopping Soulya in her efforts, “The girls in the community are spearheading this process, leading by example. The challenge is attitudinal. There is no one-stop solution for these issues. Youngsters from the community have to take responsibility of moving the needle for the community’s progress.” If you know other child-champions creating an impact as role-models in their community, email Save The Children.

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    In a bid to prevent open defecation and usher in hygiene and cleanliness among slum-dwellers of New Delhi, a group of college students have initiated a unique campaign that has brought down the open defecation rates in some slums from 95% to 3%. Had you visited or wandered close to the slums in Sultanpuri and Kirti Nagar in New Delhi a year ago, you would have witnessed a common and appalling sight of slum-dwellers walking into open fields with a tin can to relieve themselves. You might have walked past stinky toilet complexes lying vandalized with broken, leaky walls, and pipes. But not anymore! Thanks to a group of enterprising college students from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS), Delhi University, the open defecation rates in these slums have come down from 95% to a mere 3% in just one year.

    And this was made possible through community involvement and healthy sanitary initiatives like Project Raahat undertaken by the Enactus team in SSCBS.

    at-nationals Enactus is a global non-profit organisation run by students at individual university and college levels committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better and more sustainable world. In India, Enactus is active in more than 150 colleges and universities involving more than 4,300 students working on nearly 122 projects across the country. The SSCBS Enactus team comprises of 70 students, of which 20 are directly involved in Project Raahat.
    You may also likeWaterless and Zero-Waste: These Toilets Are Bringing A Sanitation Revolution in Rural India
    Project Raahat aims to eradicate open defecation and provide safe sanitation facilities to the urban slum dwellers of Delhi. They come up with innovative measures for management of toilet complexes, incorporate aesthetic modification and sensitize people on healthy sanitary practices. The idea sprung from an older project called ‘Sanitary Solutions’ in which they were educating people living in slums about healthy and hygienic practices like the use of sanitary napkins, etc.

    They even made sanitary napkins and distributed them to women.

    camp-with-kids During this time, Enactus SSCBS conducted several need assessment surveys in these slums to understand what the community required. They found that people didn’t have clean toilets and in some cases no toilets at all. Instead they chose to defecate in open grounds or near railway lines close by. They also found that the existing toilet complexes in these slums were in a dilapidated state with broken walls, no water or electricity supply, and unclean latrines that were a breeding ground for pathogens. Thus, in collaboration with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), SSCBS Enactus became the first student body in Delhi to be allocated four toilet complexes in Sultanpuri and Kirti Nagar slums for holistic growth and upkeep of the local community. The students are responsible for the operational management of the complex. They also sensitize the slum community on using these toilets. To reduce open defecation, they had to come up with unique innovative methods to attract people to use the new toilet complexes. They followed a three-point action plan. First, they made the toilet complex aesthetically attractive by creating wall art. They used witty Bollywood slogans of pop culture icons like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan on the walls; bright and vivid in colour, you could see Gabbar Singh saying, ‘Basanti, khule mein na jaa’ (Basanti, don’t defecate in the open) on one of the walls.

    They also drew and painted cartoons and caricatures on the walls to attract people and children towards them.

    sultanpuri-wall-art “We created a superhero called ‘Raahi’ to attract children there and tap into their psychology as someone who would pull them out of their misery and put them on the road to sanitation,” says Aanisha Belur, an associate with SSCBS Enactus working on Project Raahat. The next step was to create a sense of community responsibility towards the maintenance of the toilet complexes. For this, they grew vertical gardens where they planted saplings in half-cut plastic bottles filled with soil and hung them on the side of the toilet building. This encouraged people to not break or vandalize the complex and to contribute towards the upkeep of the toilet complex.
    You may also like: This 16-Year-Old Feels Humiliated Because She Has to Defecate in the Open. Gift Her a Toilet!

    Additionally, they conduct separate regular camps on a weekly basis for men, women and children where they teach them how to adopt sanitary practices, including use of washrooms, cleanliness and closed-door defecation practices.

    slide0032_image368 For example, the students ran a series of camps on a daily basis in December where they stood near grounds and stopped and questioned those who were going to defecate in the open. They involved the slum children to run up to those who were going to defecate outside and tell them to use the washroom instead. The aim was to induce shame in the adults as children would go close to them and say ‘They are going to defecate in the open in public.’ It was fun for the children too and achieved the community goal of making everyone use the bathrooms. More than cleanliness, money is a great deal harder to come by for these slum residents, many of whom are below the poverty line. “After speaking to many of them, we realised a major reason they chose not to use the government toilet complexes is that they had to pay a rupee per person each time they used it,” says Aanisha. As an alternative they would use the Mobile Toilet Vans (MTVs) which are free to use for women but are ill-maintained. To tackle this, the group of students came up with a pass system where a family of three had to pay only Rs 100 per month to use the toilet facilities at any time or any number of times. They established various rates depending on the number of family members. The facilities can be availed for free by senior and physically challenged citizens and children below 10 years of age. The passes contain a family photograph, the names of the family members and their local address.

    All they have to do is show the pass to the caretaker of the toilet complex before using it.

    family-with-pass-at-sultanpuri
    A family of four availing the pass system.
    A critical aspect of Project Raahat is entrepreneurship. In this case the students identify and appoint a caretaker and cleaner from within the slum community who is given a fixed monthly salary based on the number of passes sold and renewed each month. The intention behind this move is to sensitize people to the fact that cleaning toilets is a dignified job and people doing it shouldn’t be looked down upon in society due to the caste hierarchy. Enactus doesn’t end its role there. They ensure the caretaker’s family members are enrolled for relevant government schemes and their children sent to school too. This enterprising, self-sustaining model helped Enactus SSCBS win a national level competition, which led them to represent India at the Enactus World Cup held in Toronto, Canada, in September. Project Raahat, along with Project Udaan, were selected as first runners-up at the World Cup, coming ahead of countries like Germany and Nigeria.
    You may also like: An Enterprising Young IAS Couple Has Developed an App to Help Anyone Find Clean Toilets!
    Project Raahat also received a grant of Rs 5 lakh from the Delhi University Innovation Project. SSCBS Enactus inaugurated the first toilet complex in Sultanpuri in December last year and continues to invest its efforts in eradicating open defecation in urban slums. In the coming year, Project Raahat will take up the responsibility of 12 more toilet complexes and help create a self-sustainable environment and livelihood for its slum residents.

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    A year ago, the small hamlet named Nandgaon near Karjat in Maharashtra had over 100 houses and not a single toilet. The villagers would defecate in the open areas adjacent to a forest near the village.

    Thanks to a 16-year-old girl, Rohini Karale, over 15 families in the village have built toilets in the past one year and more are convinced that they need one.

    rohini
    Photo Source: Facebook
    According to a report by Firstpost, Rohini has taken up the mission to make her village open defecation free and is working relentlessly towards her goal. Since her childhood, Rohini saw that no family in her village had a toilet in their house. She, too, was used to the practice as everyone would do the same. However, when Rohini started menstruating, she realised that she couldn’t live in a village that didn’t have toilets.
    "As I grew up to be a woman, things changed for me. It was very embarrassing and also petrifying to just relieve myself out in the open. I had to wait for the sun to go down to relieve myself. And the most difficult days were during my menstruation because those days required extra care and hygiene unlike the regular days. But now with a toilet within my house, it has actually made a drastic change not just for me but with this we have been actually advocating the importance of hygiene and sanitation to our fellow villagers," says Rohini.
    She convinced her grandfather, who was the sarpanch of the village not only to build a toilet in their house but also to spread awareness among the villagers about the hazards of open defecation.
    Also read: TBI Blogs: Dear PM Modi, Want India to Go Open Defecation Free? Then Let’s Build Well-Designed Toilets!
    "I requested my grandfather to take up the issue in public since he was the Sarpanch at that point of time. Speaking about the issue in a public forum helped others to take cognizance of the problems faced by teenage girls and women in my village," Rohini told Firstpost.
    With the help of the NGO Habitat for Humanity India, the Karale family built a toilet in their house. Now, after a year since the inception of her mission, 15 families in the village have built toilets. More toilets are being constructed in Nandgaon with the help of government schemes and NGOs. Around 30 per cent of the villagers now utilise toilet facilities rather than defecating in the open. To know more about the NGO Habitat for Humanity India, visit its official website here.

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    Many government schools across India suffer from poor facilities, including terrible sanitation facilities and urinals. A new innovation is helping schools overcome this issue – waterless urinals for boys. Sanitation is not a set of facilities, it is an experience. Working in government schools gives you the opportunity to observe from close quarters the everyday challenges in sanitation that government school children face.  The first thing you would notice in this regard is the existence of toilets without urinals. In many schools, toilets for boys are constructed without urinals. Students are expected to urinate on the wall. Flushing means throwing a bucket of water on this wall. To make matters worse, in some schools flushing means fetching water from a tap 10 m. away from the toilet. The result? Toilets everywhere are mostly dirty, smelly, and very poorly maintained. Students, rendered incapable of differentiating between relieving themselves inside and outside the toilet since both essentially mean urinating on a wall, would end up urinating in the open. The toilet is seldom clean, and eventually falls into neglect. The purpose of the physical infrastructure would thus be completely lost.

    In the process, one also loses the precious opportunity to mould young children into responsible citizens who know how to use and maintain sanitation facilities.

    [caption id="attachment_83989" align="aligncenter" width="500"]CuriousCaseOfMissingUrinals copy The curious case of missing urinals in government schools[/caption] Providing a toilet can never be the complete solution. The most important aspect of the equation has to be driving behavioural change. Without a push in the direction of changing user behaviour, sanitation programs have seldom been successful. Two recurring attributes are smell and a lack of regular water supply. Another major issue is vandalism which led to frequent infrastructural breakdowns. Sometimes, antisocial elements from the community surrounding the school, and sometimes from the school itself, would periodically damage school property.

    This would make it very difficult for school authorities to manage funds for repair.

    [caption id="attachment_83991" align="aligncenter" width="500"]WU_1 The newest version of our Waterless Urinal installed in Mandya[/caption] The solution, therefore, has to be capable of taking on problems of irregular water supply and odour, and be low-cost and robust. The Waterless Urinal uses a simple TT ball to block the path between the urine bowl and the underground sewage system when not in use. The ball lifts up and spins when urinated upon, and settles back into place when not in use. This way, it greatly reduces odour in the toilet without the use of water.

    The Waterless Urinal thus reduces the need for water by 70 % and keeps the toilet odour-free.

    [caption id="attachment_83992" align="aligncenter" width="500"]WU_2 The anatomy of Reap Benefit’s Waterless Urinal[/caption] Reap Benefit has installed more than 200 waterless urinals in the last two years in government schools in and around Bangalore. The sanitation experience of students is now radically better. Since students build the urinals with Reap Benefit’s teams, there is greater sense of ownership, reducing instances of vandalism.

    As a result, most urinals are still functioning and running well.

    [caption id="attachment_83990" align="aligncenter" width="500"]WaterlessUrinal-10 copy Reap Benefit has installed more than 200 urinals in schools in and around Bangalore[/caption] Over the years, the Urinal has gone through several iterations to accommodate user experience and input. The solution, along with an emphasis on behavioural change, is helping create better sanitation experiences in government schools, one urinal at a time. Join Reap Benefit in its mission to solve tough civic and environmental issues on our website.

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    "The future of India lies in its villages"- Mahatma Gandhi.

    In today's world, Gandhi’s words that India’s survival depends on the well-being of its villages seem even more pertinent. Seventy percent of India's population – roughly one-tenth of humanity – live in the countryside. This makes rural India a focal point for issues of national and global concern: the impact of high population and development on natural resources; lack of sanitation and its impact on health; water pollution from raw sewage and pesticide runoff; soil loss and desertification due to erosion, overgrazing and deforestation.

    This is also why the ability of India’s villages to offer fulfilling lives to their inhabitants is germinal to India’s future as a great global power.

    [caption id="attachment_85429" align="aligncenter" width="800"]yourstory-dharnai Dharnai, India's first solar powered village[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Over the years, a few of India's resilient rural villages have been trying to remain relevant and adapt to change without losing their valued traditions and skills that have survived down the ages.

    From renewable energy to organic farming, here are 15 Indian villages that have walked the talk and are shining examples of what a community can do when it comes together for a better tomorrow.

    1. Dharnai, Bihar

    [caption id="attachment_85426" align="aligncenter" width="620"]dharnai5 Dharnai[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Once struggling to get basic electricity like most villages in India, Dharnai has now changed its fate and become the first village in India to completely run on solar power. Residents of Dharnai had been using diesel-based generators and hazardous fuel like cow dung to meet the electricity requirement for decades, which were both costly and unhealthy. Since the launch of Greenpeace's solar-powered 100 kilowatt micro-grid in 2014, quality electricity is being provided to more than 2,400 people living in this village in Jehanabad district.

    2. Payvihir, Maharashtra

    [caption id="attachment_85425" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Untitled-design-7-2 Payvihir[/caption]
    Photo Source
    An obscure village in the foothills of Melghat region of Amravati district in Maharashtra, Payvihir, has set an example for the country by consistently showing how communities and NGOs can work together to conserve the environment and ensure sustainable livelihood for people. In 2014, Payvihir bagged the Biodiversity Award from the United Nation’s Development Programme for turning a barren, 182-hectare land under community forest right, into a forest. Recently, the village also came up with an out-of-the-box idea of selling organic sitafals (custard apples) and mangoes in Mumbai under their brand Naturals Melghat! Read More HereFrom Growing Its Own Forest to Selling Organic Fruits, This Village Funds Its Own Development

    3. Hiware Bazaar, Maharashtra

    [caption id="attachment_85418" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Watershed Hiware Bazaar[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Amid the desperate denizens scrounging for water in the drought-affected parts of Maharashtra stands a village that has not felt the need to call a single water tanker - in fact, it hasn't called for one since 1995. The village also has 60 millionaires and the highest per-capita income in India. Facing a major water crisis each year because of the measly rainfall it gets, the village decided to shun water-intensive crops and opted for horticulture and dairy farming. Their consistent water conservation initiatives led to rising groundwater levels and the village started to prosper. Today, the village has 294 open wells, each brimming with water just as the village brims with prosperity.

    4. Odanthurai, Tamil Nadu

    [caption id="attachment_85413" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Odanthurai-powers Odanthurai[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Odanthurai, a panchayat situated in Mettupalayam taluk of Coimbatore district, has been a model village for the other villages for more than a decade. The panchayat has not only been generating electricity for their own use, but also selling power to Tamil Nadu Electricity Board. Having already won international acclaim through its unique welfare schemes and energy self-sufficiency drives, Odanthurai near Mettupalayam has begun efforts to develop a corpus of Rs 5 crore to install wind and solar energy farms. This project will enable free supply of electricity to over 8,000 residents. For contact details, click here.

    5. Chizami, Nagaland

    [caption id="attachment_85409" align="aligncenter" width="500"]ms.-akang-thiumai Chizami[/caption]
    Photo Source
    A small village in Nagaland’s Phek district, Chizami has been scripting a quiet revolution in terms of socioeconomic reforms and environmental protection for almost a decade. A model village in the Naga society, Chizami is today visited by youth from Kohima and neighbouring villages for internships in the Chizami model of development. What is unique in the Chizami model of development is that marginalised women have played an important role in bringing about this socio-economic and sustainable transformation that is rooted in traditional practices of the state. For contact details, click here. Read More HereA Tiny Naga Village Has Been Spearheading Women’s Rights & Sustainable Farming for Almost a Decade

    6. Gangadevipalli, Andhra Pradesh

    [caption id="attachment_85404" align="aligncenter" width="697"]gallery21380 Gangadevipalli[/caption]
    Photo Source
    If India lives in its villages, then the model it perhaps must follow is Gangadevipalli, a hamlet in Andhra Pradesh's Warangal district where every house has the bare necessities of life, and more. From regular power and water supply to a scientific water filtration plant, a community-owned cable TV service and concrete, well-lit roads, this model village has been steadily gaining in prosperity thanks to a disciplined and determined community that has also managed to work in harmony towards goals set collectively. For contact details, click here.

    7. Kokrebellur, Karnataka

    [caption id="attachment_85402" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kokkare_Bellur_Pelicans Pelicans in Kokrebellur[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Kokrebellur, a small village in Maddur taluk of Karnataka, offers you an unusual and mesmerizing sight as you’ll find some of India’s rarest species of birds chirping in the backyards of these village homes. Named after the Painted Storks, which are called Kokkare in Kannada, this small village (which is not a reserved bird sanctuary) has set an example of how birds and humans can co-exist in complete harmony. The villagers treat these birds as a part of their family and have also created a small area for wounded birds to rest. Birds are so friendly here that they even allow you to go very close to them.

    8. Khonoma, Nagaland

    [caption id="attachment_85398" align="aligncenter" width="700"]3 Khonoma[/caption]
    Photo Source
    From being a cradle of resistance to the British colonial rule, Khonoma has come a long way to become India’s first green village. Home to a 700-year-old Angami settlement and perfectly terraced fields, this unique, self-sustaining village in Nagaland is a testament to the willpower of the tribal groups of Nagaland to protect and conserve their natural habitat. All hunting is banned in the village, which also practices its own ecofriendly version of jhum agriculture (instead of the traditional slash-and-burn method) that enriches the soil. Also See: VIDEO - This Wallflower Of A Settlement In Nagaland Is India’s First Green Village

    9. Punsari, Gujarat

    [caption id="attachment_85391" align="aligncenter" width="500"]524640_10151786067245101_932960508_n Himanshu Patel, the Sarpanch of Punsari (centre) and happy villagers[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Punsari village, barely 100 km from Ahmedabad, could be a textbook case of development. Closed-circuit cameras, water purifying plants, biogas plants, air-conditioned schools, Wi-Fi, biometric machines - the village has it all. And all of it was done in a matter of eight years, at a cost of Rs. 16 crore. The man behind the transformation is its young tech-savvy sarpanch - 33-year-old Himanshu Patel - who proudly states that his village offers "the amenities of a city but the spirit of a village." For contact details, click here.

    10. Ramchandrapur, Telangana

    [caption id="attachment_85384" align="aligncenter" width="628"]Ramachandrapuram Ramchandrapur[/caption]
    Photo Source
    The first village in Telangana region to win the Nirmal Puraskar in 2004-05, Ramchandrapur came into focus a decade ago when the villagers pledged to donate their eyes for the visually challenged. Among its many achievements, all the houses in the village have smokeless chullahs and toilets with tap-water facilities. It is the first village in the state to construct a sub-surface dyke on the nearby river and solve drinking water problems by constructing two over-head tanks in each house. The village does not have drainage system and all the water generated from each house is diverted to the gardens, which are planted by the villagers in each house.

    11. Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

    [caption id="attachment_85382" align="aligncenter" width="643"]Mawlynnong Mawlynnong[/caption] In the tiny hamlet of Mawlynnong, plastic is banned, spotless paths are lined with flowers, bamboo dustbins stand at every corner, volunteers sweep the streets at regular intervals and large signboards warn visitors against littering. Here, tidying up is a ritual that everyone – from tiny toddlers to toothless grannies – takes very seriously. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the village community, this small, 600-odd-person hamlet in Meghalaya is today renowned as the cleanest village in India and Asia.

    12. Piplantri, Rajasthan

    [caption id="attachment_85377" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Piplantri[/caption] For the last several years, the Piplantri village panchayat has been saving girl children and increasing the green cover in and around it at the same time. Here, villagers plant 111 trees every time a girl is born and the community ensures these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girls grow up. They also set up a fixed deposit for the girls and make their parents sign an affidavit that ensures their education. Over the last nine years, people here have managed to plant over a quarter million trees on the village's grazing commons. To prevent these trees from being infested with termite, the residents planted over 2.5 million aloe vera plants around them. Now, these trees, especially the aloe vera, are a source of livelihood for several residents. For contact details, click here. Read More HereThis Village in Rajasthan Plants 111 Trees for Every Girl Child Born. Thanks to One Man’s Vision.

    13. Eraviperoor, Kerala

    [caption id="attachment_85370" align="aligncenter" width="500"]11666160_933759546683526_1458934226332683981_n Eraviperoor[/caption]
    Photo Source
    At a time when the country is abuzz with talks about Digital India, and how technology can be taken to the remotest corners of the country, the Eraviperoor gram panchayat in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala is leading way. It is the first gram panchayat in Kerala to have free Wi-Fi for the general public. The village has also launched a free palliative care scheme for the poor and is the first panchayat in the state to get ISO-9001 certification for its Primary Health Centre. It has also been recognised as a Model Hi-tech Green Village, by the Horticulture Department, for its green initiatives. For contact details, click here.

    14. Baghuvar, Madhya Pradesh

    [caption id="attachment_85369" align="aligncenter" width="500"]444 Baghuvar[/caption]
    Photo Source
    A small village in Madhya Pradesh, Baghuvar is the only village in India that has functioned without a sarpanch since independence, and that too efficiently. Every house in the village has its own lavatories and there is a common toilet complex that is used for social functions. The village has underground sewage lines as well as the highest number of biogas plants in the state. The gas produced is used as cooking fuel and to light up the village. Thanks to its unique way of water conservation, this village also has enough water to survive drought-like conditions for years.

    15. Shikdamakha, Assam

    [caption id="attachment_85371" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Untitled-74 Shikdamakha[/caption]
    Photo Source

    Way before Swacch Bharat, in 2010, a remote Assam village had set cleanliness goals for itself. Shikdamakha, near Guwahati, runs cleanliness drives and competitions, and wants to surpass Mawlynnong in Meghalaya as Asia's cleanest village. A plastic-free village that earned the maximum points in the cleanliness sub-index of Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Shikdamakha has also earned the coveted Open Defecation Free status recently.

    Feature Image Source

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      Lonwadi, a small village in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, got its first vastishala (a makeshift primary school arranged by the government for villages that are far away from education facilities) in the year 2005. Mr. Ingle was appointed as the first teacher. Slowly, the vastishala was converted into a proper primary school and it was decided that one more teacher was needed. But who would want to be posted in a remote village like Lonwadi? Surprisingly, there was one teacher who actually insisted that the authorities transfer him to this village. This teacher, who joined the primary school at Lonwadi in December 2005, was about to change things very soon. The teacher’s name was Parsharam Narwade. Unlike most other government school teachers, he did not plan to teach just text book contents to the children of Lonwadi. His vision was to impart wisdom along with knowledge to his students. And his mission was to make each child a responsible citizen of the country.

    Narwade began with the basics! His first lessons addressed something very fundamental to existence, that is, the importance of nature.

    1 Narwade would take his students for 2 km long walks through the jungle near school, something like the field trips arranged by reputed and expensive schools in cities. However, there was a difference. The field trips of the Lonwadi school were not just entertaining and educational for the kids but also taught them the importance of preserving and growing forests. The walks would begin with the children collecting seeds of neem and tamarind trees. Once they had all their seeds, the students had to count them and the kid with the maximum number of seeds was rewarded. This also helped the children improve their math skills.

    The next step was to find places where they could sow the seeds in the jungle. The seeds need had to be planted inside the bushes that grow near big trees so the saplings would get the initial support they needed to grow.

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    “I have had this habit since childhood. My mother always asked us to sow the seeds of the fruits we ate on the way to the school. We stayed in Kharus village in the Yavatmal district and my school was 4 km away in Dhanki. We used to throw the seeds in the jungle on the way to school and also take care of the plants when the seedlings sprouted,” says Narwade.

    Narwade and his little student army also made nests for the birds in the forest and placed water pots for them to quench their thirst.

    3 In the year 2012, the NGO Shivprabha Charitable Trust came to the village of Lonwadi. At the time, the village lacked water facilities, electricity and roads. In the same year, Narwade became a member of the Trust and started working on all these fronts. Today, the village has paved roads, a solar operated water distribution system and electricity, thanks to the efforts of the NGO.

    The Trust has also constructed one bio-toilet in the village and is now on a mission to make the entire village open defecation free.

    4 The village has 41 households. Therefore, only 40 more toilets need to be built in the village to fulfill this aim. The Better India appeals to its readers to help make this beautiful and inspirational village meet its target by contributing money for the construction of toilets.
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
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    Students of Kishinchand Chellaram (KC) College in Mumbai have constructed 107 toilets in the village of Karvale in Maharashtra to help it become Open Defecation Free. Considering that millions of people in India do not have access to toilets, the process of making India Open Defecation Free (ODF) needs to be taken up at a micro level, house by house, village by village.

    In an impressive feat, students of Kishinchand Chellaram (KC) College in Mumbai have constructed 107 toilets in the Karvale village in Palghar district, and have managed to construct one toilet per family residing in the village.

    The initiative has been taken up by the National Service Scheme (NSS) of the college. In 2005, the NSS unit conducted a camp in Karvale village to build one toilet for a school. None of the families in the village had a toilet and it was upon visiting the village that the students realized the gravity of the issue –they then decided to extend the project.
    “To us, for whom it is obvious to have a toilet in the house, the plight of the villagers without any access to toilets was beyond imagination.Girls and women in the Karvale village had no choice but to get up at dawn or to wait until night to answer nature’s calls. Many girls dropped out of school after they started menstruation because of the unavailability of toilets,” says Simran Brijwani, NSS volunteer & student of KC College.
    After gaining the trust of the villagers through frequent visits, the volunteers started spreading awareness about the importance of sanitation and hygiene among villagers. In the beginning, the response was slow, but gradually, they were able to make the villagers understand the importance of having a toilet in their house.
    Also read: TBI Blogs: Dear PM Modi, Want India to Go Open Defecation Free? Then Let’s Build Well-Designed Toilets!
    The students then decided to provide better sanitation facilities for the villagers and make the village ODF. The initiative picked up pace in 2015 and the students constructed 49 toilets that year. In 2016, over 300 student volunteers constructed 67 toilets in the village to reach the target under the guidance of NSS programme officer Dr. Satish Kolte.

    The students now visit the village every Sunday to complete the construction work. For the last three months of the project, they worked in shifts from morning to evening and visited the village every day.

    “Most of us had no idea how a toilet was constructed. It was our seniors and programme managers who taught us everything from scratch. We did everything from digging the soak pit in the ground to laying bricks to finally painting the walls of the toilets. It has been a good experience,” says Simran.
    The students also started creating awareness about literacy by building a community centre in the village and distributing reading & writing materials. Among other initiatives, they have also helped the villagers set up a farmers’ market, trained local women to make different utility artefacts and conducted health check-up camps.
    “The motto of the NSS unit is ‘Not me, but you.’ Putting others’ needs before our own is something we are often taught as a part of our culture. Our project is just a projection of that thought. We received tremendous support from the villagers. They would prepare food for us, provide clean drinking water and even help us whenever possible. There are over 100 families in the village and now we have constructed a toilet for every house! It is such a great feeling,” concludes Simran.

    Also read: Jharkhand’s First Cashless Wedding Took Place after the Guests Built a Toilet in the Groom’s Home

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    Naranga Pujari has Mission Sanitation on her mind. This Self Help Group leader in Bandaguda village of Odisha’s Koraput district has, for the last few years, been working concertedly to spread awareness around hygiene and proper sanitation motivating her Kondh tribal community to “construct a toilet at home instead of going out into the forest for daily ablutions and contaminating our streams”. Her determined approach and persuasive attitude have ensured that not just her hamlet but four others in Khudi Gram Panchayat are officially Open Defecation Free. Just like Naranga, Chandramani, the sarpanch of Chakraliguda village in Koraput, has led by example and ensured that “toilets are built in homes without any resistance”.

    Across rural Koraput, women have led the movement against open defecation although it’s never easy to wipe out centuries of set behavioural practices.

    “Kondhs are habituated to defecating in the open, mostly in the forest (donger) or by the river. So when I decided to work on sanitation issues it was important to speak to everyone to make sure they understood the need for building toilets. I had to hold several meetings to bring home the realisation that constructing toilets meant better health for everyone,” she shares. However, just holding meetings wasn’t enough; the other big challenge was to convince them that there was enough space to build a latrine at home. “Many people simply declared that they didn’t have space to build latrines; it was up to us to be able to show them otherwise. Finally, after much cajoling a few were agreeable to construct a toilet at home. Some were even ready to divide their kitchen space to build a latrine,” she adds with a smile. Much like Pujari, sarpanch Chandramani took time to get through to her people. The popular village head decided to lead by example – her household became the first in Chakraliguda to not just make a toilet but also use it every day.
    “I understood the significance of having a toilet at home. Being a woman I used to feel humiliated going out into the open; there are far too many risks. But initially it wasn’t as if I had the complete support of my own family. When I decided to get a latrine built adjacent to our home the first person to speak up against me was my own father. In fact, he was strictly against building it,” she recalls.
    This negative attitude didn’t discourage Chandramani. If at all, it increased her resolve to bring in change. A few months after her altercation with her father she decided to start an awareness campaign against open defecation. She went door-to-door to talk to villagers about better hygiene practices and told them about the government schemes they could avail to make a toilet. Yet, when it looked like no intervention was likely to have the desired result she took a very hard decision. She blocked their access to government ration and pension. “Being the village head I first tried to persuade them to use government schemes to make toilets but when I found that they did not want to give it a chance, I blocked their ration and pension. I did that for my own father too. Now each home in the village uses a toilet,” she says.

    As per Census 2011, in Odisha, 85.9 per cent rural households still practice open defecation while the percentage of urban households following suit is 35.2.

    Among them, toilet access for Scheduled Tribes is a mere 5.3 per cent and for Scheduled Caste rural households it’s only slightly better at 8.9 per cent. Effectively, close to 42 million people in rural Odisha defecate in the open every day. This unfortunate reality persists even though women largely do realise that a toilet at home safeguards them from indignity and ill health. It’s to give these otherwise powerless women a voice and, at the same time, achieve total sanitation that UNICEF has been supporting motivators like Pujari and Chandramani in their endeavours. In fact, there are 3,800 Sanitation Motivators working in 15 districts across Odisha today. “These community leaders used what could be termed as shock treatment to get through to the villagers. In different meeting they told them: ‘you cover yourselves with saris but then expose yourself to the whole world’. When they used such hard-hitting words people started paying attention,” shares Manas Biswal, Regional Programme Coordinator and Consultant, UNICEF. To help locals give up open defecation, initially, the Sanitation Motivators introduced them to the ‘clay method’ wherein they were told to cover the human excreta with soil and clay. Each panchayat constituted a Nigrani (vigilance) committee whose members took to spreading awareness and enforcing the clay method. Gradually, families began building toilets, which they nowadays refer to as ‘swabhiman ghara’ or the room of dignity. For Nirupama Swain of Jagatsinghpur district having a toilet at home has been a true blessing, especially since she is going to have her baby soon. “In the early months of my pregnancy we didn’t have a toilet and I used to find it difficult to keep going outside to relieve myself. In this condition things can get tricky particularly after sun down. I am so thankful that I don’t have to bother about this anymore.” Even those menstruating are happy to have this facility during those “difficult days of the month”. According to Nimai Sasmal, a male sanitation motivator from Jagatsinghpur district, besides women and girls, toilets are vital for the disabled as well as the elderly who can’t walk for long distances or squat in the open. “I’ll share an example. In my village there is a disabled young man Dillip Behera for whom going to relieve himself in open was embarrassing and very difficult. Every morning, two or three people were needed to take him to the outskirts of the village and then bring him back. The situation was tougher at night and during the rainy season. Now that he has a toilet at home he is happy that he doesn’t need to depend on anyone.” He adds that such activism is anyway the need of the hour because “open spaces are fast shrinking”. He remarks, “Land is at a premium and being used to build homes, schools and roads. Fallow land is reducing with each passing year.” But whereas the benefits of giving up open defection are many and communities are well aware of them for many old habits die hard. “It is not that people are not building toilets; the main problem is that they are not using them because they are so used to going out in the open. What we need to aggressively work on is to bring in a lasting change in attitudes and practices, which, of course, is easier said than done,” explains Pujari, who is in her late 40s. “In this process of creating change, awareness comes first followed by actual toilet construction. Then we need to keep an eye on people to ensure that the facility is being put to use,” elaborates Mitu Swain, a sanitation motivator from Khandi village in Ganjam district, adding, “For a long time things can’t be left unsupervised because people tend to go back to doing what is more familiar though it may be detrimental to their wellbeing.” While the state government, with support from the Centre as well as various development organisations, has put in place campaigns and programmes for spreading awareness against open defecation in a bid to meet the 2019 target, it’s the band of front-line activists like Pujari, Chandramani and others who are actively restoring dignity and pride to the rural communities.

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    Written by Rakhi Ghosh for Women’s Feature Service (WFS) and republished here in arrangement with WFS.

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    Setting an unprecedented example, the Central Drinking Water Supply and Swachh Bharat Mission secretary Parameswaran Iyer, who was on a visit to a Warangal village to promote and observe the twin pit composting toilets as a low-cost sanitation solution, himself entered a pit and took out the manure from it – hitting hard the stigma associated with the work, and spreading a welcome message towards hygiene.
    Photo Source
    “It's perfectly safe and clean to empty a twin-pit toilet. We needed to demonstrate how twin pit toilet is one of the best suitable low-cost technologies in rural areas. Second, there is a stigma attached to emptying these pits after closing them for six months or a year. Once you close one pit for months, the excreta gets converted into clean compost,” he said, according to The Times of India. Parameswaran was accompanied by a team of  over a dozen top bureaucrats from 23 states, along with some officials from UNICEF. They visited every house in the village to understand and observe the working of the technology that successfully converts night soil into rich manure. Describing the technology as a “revolutionary concept” that can be extremely useful in villages that lack adequate drainage systems, Parameswaran commended the villagers in Gangadevipally for setting an example. “Only one pit is used at a time. When one is full, its drop hole is closed and the second one is used. After six months to one year, the waste stored in the first pit can be removed safely and used as soil conditioner. The pit can be used again when the second pit is filled up. This cycle can be repeated,” he said, adding that the cover slabs of twin-pit toilets have two drop holes – one for each pit.
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    Showing the retrieved manure to the villagers, he informed them that it was rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus and can be extremely useful in agricultural practices. Parameswaran also put out a series of tweets in which he said, “Great to be emptying a toilet pit in Gangadevipally, Warangal @swachhbharat.” “It's perfectly safe and clean to empty a twin pit toilet. The @swachhbharat team joins Gangadevipally village today,” he said. He also shared a photograph of the team holding coffee powder compost after emptying the toilet pits.

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    In a welcome move, which gives a boost to issues concerning sanitation, maulvis and muftis in states like Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have made it mandatory for houses to have toilets for marriages to be solemnised.

    Maulana Mahmood A Madani, secretary general of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, has said that having a toilet is mandatory for Muslim marriages to be solemnised in the three states, a condition likely to be applicable across the country.

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    “Maulvis and muftis in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana have decided that they will not solemnise the nikah or Muslim marriage in a house where there are no toilets,” PTI quoted him as saying.

    He added that he felt all religious leaders should also decide against conducting any rituals for houses without toilets.

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    Maulana Madani was speaking at the inauguration of Assam Conference on Sanitation 2017 in Khanapara, Guwahati, last week. Stressing on issues like cleanliness and hygiene, which has been a major focus area for the government's Swachh Bharat Mission, under which it aims to make India open defecation free by October 2, 2019, the maulvi asked people to use toilets and contribute towards making the country clean. According to the Swachhta Status Report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), 2015, 52.1% of the rural population in the country still defecates in the open.
    You may also like: 5 Eco-friendly & Affordable Bio-Toilets That Can Bring On a Sanitation Revolution In India
    “There are two types of cleaning – one is external and the other internal. Both are interconnected, we will only be able to achieve the internal cleaning if our body is clean,” Maulana Madani said. The conference, which was aimed at making Assam open defecation free by year-end, had more than 6,000 attendees that included experts, officials, corporate houses and locals.

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    Open defecation continues to be a prevalent issue in many parts of rural India. Community members from a village in an Uttar Pradesh district are coming together to resolve the problem in their own areas. A young woman goes to the fields to relieve herself every morning. A man takes note every morning. One day, he attacks her. The woman was thankfully saved, but the man is unapologetic. “After all, these are my fields,” he said, “She’s the one who’s been using them all this while, and it must be because she wants me to approach her.” There you go. Yet another version of ‘it’s her fault’, this time centred around answering nature’s call. But this is not just a rural problem. The rape of two minor girls in Rohini, who had stepped out of their homes for the same reason the young woman had, is a clear indicator of the larger issue at hand. Apart from this, we’ll resist the urge to cite statistics on the very clear link between open defecation and the spread of disease. In an India riddled with gender, caste, and class inequalities, we have a very basic problem that refuses to go away—the lack of toilets inside peoples’ own homes.

    For all the chatter this election season in UP about development and technology, it’s almost absurd that this isn’t on anyone’s agenda. What use are laptops, when we don’t have toilets?

    [caption id="attachment_89000" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Mira talking to community members in Mahoba.[/caption] Amidst all this, Atrapta village, in the Jaitpur block of Mahoba, has taken matters into their own hands. “Free us from open defecation,” says Mira, a sweeper who has been running a movement against open defecation since July under the larger campaign of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission). Along with other cleaners of Atrapta, and some of the villagers themselves, Mira has been spreading awareness and educating people about sanitation in the village. Under the campaign, they are informing villagers of the harmful effects of open defecation, and how they can avoid dirt. Mira, impassioned about her work, tells us that they have cleaned 30 villages within the Jaitpur block so far, “We start work from 4 AM, and go house to house, explaining to people the effects of open defecation.”

    She says that people have become more aware about the mission, and are more or less receptive to its message.

    [caption id="attachment_89001" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Addressing the community members at a meeting.[/caption] She explains to them about how harmful dirt can be, how it can spread through particles that fly from the soil or from our feet and from the wheels of cars, and how it can also lead to many diseases. “I tell them that the money they will spend for treating such diseases can be used to build toilets. Prevention is better than cure,” she likes to say. Kumari, the village Education Minister, finds the campaign extremely useful, “This campaign has already made a difference, and many people have been following it. Cleanliness will make the village look beautiful and also keep the diseases away. Our school’s children also support this campaign, taking out rallies to raise awareness in the people.” Nawab Singh, the village Pradhan (Head), said, “The village has consistently needed toilets earlier as well. I am sure the politicians will take it up again in the elections. I hope so.” Surveys have confirmed that violence against women, like rape and molestation, increases during open defecation, since it leaves women vulnerable. The Mahoba movement, authorities hope, will be the first of many in ensuring public health and women’s safety.
    For more updates from Khabar Lahariya, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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    Menstruation and menstrual waste are still taboo topics in many parts of India, especially in rural areas. Amidst this environment, a small village in Uttar Pradesh has taken a huge progressive towards dealing with menstrual waste and raising awareness about menstruation. Puja Awasthi explores further. In a country of 350 million menstruating women and girls, soiled sanitary napkins lying by the roadside are a common sight. This has collectively inspired us to turn a blind eye towards the existence of used sanitary napkins in our ecosystem. People from Papna Mau, a small village located on the outskirts of Lucknow, collectively decided to use locally devised sustainable methods of sanitary napkin-disposal to tackle the growing mounds of menstrual waste. By taking this small step, the village ensured cleaner surroundings, and also blunted the persistent shame and taboos associated with menstruation in our country. Sheela Singh, 27, proudly points towards the covered earthen pot kept in a corner of her house’s terrace. “This remarkable small pot is lined with dried leaves and works as a low-cost incinerator into which all the menstruating females in the family throw their used sanitary pads. Once full, the waste is doused with some oil and set alight. The holes prevent a crack in the pot while letting in air. The resultant ash is then disposed off without fear of attracting undue attention,” explains Singh.
    Singh, who is currently pursuing a graduate degree, remembers the time when she was forced to skip school during menstruation. “My mother told us to stay at home at it was difficult to manage periods. If only we could have thought of such simple innovative solutions for our problems then,” she says.
    Sunita Kanojia, 42, has tweaked the incinerator design to suit her needs. She just finished shaping a bigger mud incinerator, as she has a big family. The incinerator sits under a shed in her courtyard. “Imagine how far we have come. There was a time when my husband resisted even the construction of a toilet in our house,” she says.

    In most of the houses, incinerators are kept outside the toilet window, through which used napkins can be dropped directly.

    [caption id="attachment_87879" align="aligncenter" width="4608"] Sheela Singh with the low-cost incinerator at her terrace.[/caption] Until now, Papna Mau’s preferred modes of disposal were throwing used menstrual absorbents in local water bodies or burying them in the ground, making them a permanent part of the ecosystem. Though large-scale burning of sanitary napkins leads to toxic emissions, such home-based simple mud incinerators seem like a lesser evil. At a macro level, lack of clarity on menstrual waste disposal mechanisms has been a persistent challenge for policy makers and civil society practitioners. Sanitary napkins are technically classified as ‘biomedical waste’, and should be collected and disposed of appropriately. However, due to inherent logistical challenges, menstrual waste is usually clubbed with other household waste. According to the existing Solid Waste Management Rules, “every waste generator shall wrap securely the used sanitary waste like diapers, sanitary pads, etc., in the pouches provided by the manufacturers or brand owners of these products, or in a suitable wrapping material as instructed by the local authorities, and shall place the same in the bin meant for dry waste or non-biodegradable waste”. Independent organisations have suggested that menstrual waste be indicated by a big red dot for the benefit of waste workers who routinely handle such waste with bare hands, and thus expose themselves to the considerable risk of contracting infections.

    Experts also suggest that a permanent solution to the challenge would be to shift to using more eco-friendly sanitary products, which would be easier to dispose of and also offer protection from the harmful chemicals that are used in the production of sanitary napkins.

    [caption id="attachment_87882" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Sunita Kanojia with her mud incinerator.[/caption] Papna Mau has taken a lead in menstruation conversation. Women and girls are no longer compelled to hide used sanitary pads, or sneak out under the cover of darkness to dispose of them. They are free from the unhealthy pressure of using as few pads as possible. Papna Mau is a cleaner village and is rid of waste that was never even acknowledged. Most importantly, menstruation is no longer the taboo it once was. Women in the village now gather to speak about their menstruation-related experiences in the centrally located Anganwadi. The men sit outside, waiting to share their views on various related aspects like safe disposal. In a country where women prefer silence when it comes to topics like menstruation, this is a remarkable change. Dinesh Kumar Yadav, 30, speaks of the time when men would utter curses on spotting sanitary napkins. “It took some time, but men in the village are now convinced that blaming women is not the solution. I even tell my wife to worship during her periods, but she is hesitant,” he says. “Like other village men, I even go to the local shop and buy sanitary napkins,” says Yadav. Papna Mau touches the state capital Lucknow, and is a mix of rural and urban characteristics. The population has sustained livelihood, and is moderately educated. “The challenge was to sell the idea that there are better ways of living. To change the ‘we know best’ mindset was the toughest challenge,” said Anju Vats, field worker. The intervention in Papna Mau followed a two-pronged approach. In addition to devising better disposal methods, adequate supply of sanitary products was ensured. The change agents (or ‘titliyan’ as they are known under the programme) were identified and trained to sell the product.

    This helped tackle the shame that came from asking a male shopkeeper for sanitary napkins.

    [caption id="attachment_87885" align="aligncenter" width="4640"] Rita Gautam is a proud change agent.[/caption] Rita Gautam, 16, is one such depot manager. “My mother was not at home, and sanitary napkins were not available at any of the shops in the village. I faced so much discomfort and embarrassment. I do not want other girls to face the same distress,” says Gautam, who offers advice on disposal with every pack she sells. She shared that some men in the village too come to get the product. “Menstruation is the first reproductive right of women. How it is dealt with sets the template for future empowerment,” explains Dr. Neelam Singh, Chief Functionary of Vatsalya, WaterAid India’s partner organisation. By this simple measure, Papna Mau’s female population is treading the right path. (The author is a Lucknow-based independent journalist who reports on social justice and politics from North India. She is currently a fellow with the Population Reference Bureau, Women’s Edition Asia.) To support WaterAid India and contribute to its efforts, visit the website.

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    The Indian government is working towards making the country open defecation free by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by constructing toilets across the country. And a woman from Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district has taken it upon herself to make this a reality in her village.

    Kajal Roy has mortgaged her jewellery to make bricks and construct more than 100 toilets in Sanna village.

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    She is doing this along with other women, and wants to educate people about the importance of using toilets. “I have started with my ward. Initially I started with 50 toilets and completed it on time. We have gone to each and every household to make people aware of using toilets and their importance. When there was problem with the funds I had to keep my jewellery on mortgage to meet with the demands. Though I don’t have any regrets about it,” Kajal, who is a ward member, told ANI. She added that she did face many challenges when she started out. According to the government, around 450 million people, which is half the world’s population defecating in the open, are in India. The government's mission has become a national movement with many citizens coming out in full support. “About 450 million people practice open defecation in India, this is half of the world’s population which are defecating in open. We have long way to go and behavioural change is the way forward. With progress of the mission (Swachh Bharat Mission) so far, I am optimistic that the country will become open defecation free,” Centre’s drinking water and sanitation secretary Parameswaran Iyer told PTI.
    You may also like: Shajapur’s Swachh Bharat Crusader – a Local School Teacher Who Has Helped Build over 1800 Toilets
    Kajal, who has led by example, will be felicitated for her work and will be extended all kind of support, said district official Priyanka Shukla. Also, women sarpanch, who have contributed to the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, will be felicitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of International Women’s Day, the agency said, quoting sources.
    Featured image credit: Flickr

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    Starting next month, if you ever find yourself in South Delhi and in dire need to use the restroom, you can walk into any of the region's many restaurants and use their loos. But you may need to pay ₹5. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has just announced that all restaurants, hotels and eateries that fall under its purview will have to  make their toilets accessible to the general public even if they are not availing any of their other services. In turn, they can charge up to ₹5. All of this means, over 4,000 more toilets in the city have just been made accessible to the capital. While restaurants have expressed their reservations over this move, the Corporation staunchly believes that this will reduce the problem of open defecation and also make sanitation more accessible.

    As per the new rule, restaurants and eateries will have to prominently display the fact that their facilities have restrooms and toilets in order to keep the public in the loop.

    Image for representation. Photo source: Flickr SDMC commissioner Puneet Kumar Goel told the Times of India that the body took its cues from certain European countries that have enacted similar policies with great success. He notes, "Maintenance charges in restaurants usually vary depending on the restaurant but we have decided to keep it at ₹5, otherwise people from the lower economic groups would not be able to use the facilities. Currently such provisions are available in some European nations."
    You may also like: This Coimbatore NGO Is Making Toilets More Accessible to the Disabled at the City’s Railway Station
    Under the new rules, restaurants are also allowed to offer these services free of charge to the public if they choose to do so. Goel notes that if this move proves to be successful in South Delhi, he hopes that other regions and cities would also adopt it.

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