Challenges In Eradicating Open Defecation

Lack of proper sanitation has health implication for both the genders, but it is riskier for women. While many initiatives have been taken to curb open defecation, women in the national capital still lack access to public toilets. I came across an article that talks about various challenges that we often come across in making our society open defecation free.

A big problem with public toilets, Anita Bharghav of Let’s Do It Delhi said, is the contract between land owning agencies and those in charge of maintaining them. “Land-owning authorities hand over maintenance of public toilets to NGOs. Some give NGOs the right to charge Re 1 or Rs 2 for use of the toilets. But it’s not economically viable to have too many subcontracts,” she said.

Another problem is lack of sufficient public toilets for both men and women. A 2012 study on drinking water and sanitation by the WHO and UNICEF reveals that 626 million people in India do not have a closed toilet. It’s the world’s highest number, far ahead of Indonesia, which ranks second at just 63 million.

But apart from building more public toilets, there is an urgent need to change the mindset of its intended users. “In our culture, nobody thinks of stopping men from doing anything while women have boundaries. For women, talking openly about basic bodily needs like urinating or defecating is taboo,” Rahul Gaekwad of Right To Pee, a Mumbai-based campaign with 35 participating NGOs, said.

A new scheme introduced earlier this month in 34 villages in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district aims to change public behaviour through public humiliation. Volunteers with drums and whistles literally blow the whistle on persons they see urinating or defecating in public. Those caught again in the act are liable to be fined.

Various initiatives and policies have been introduced in the recent past to eradicate open defecation. However, there is a great challenge with the translation of these policy measures into actual implementation and wide adoption of the program. Equitable water and Sanitation track at the upcoming Design Public Conclave aim to brainstorm possible solutions to this gap in implementation and to discover new ways in which a collaborative innovation and design approach can contribute to the effort. To know more on this challenge track, see here.

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