Water, sanitation and waste | Blogs

  • Inclusive toilet – an example of inclusive public sanitation business


    June 20th, 2017

    Public Toilet at Gulariya Municipality

    During one of my field trips to Gulariya, in the mid-western Nepal, a gender friendly public toilet caught my attention. Peeping through the vehicle’s window, I decided to visit the site after completing my meeting with Gulariya Municipality Office and following up on the new activities of the Safa Swastha Gulariya project.

    The public toilet has not only male and female sections but also a separate section for third genders. A bright new paint applied to the facility and a shop with colourful display of snacks adjacent to the toilet was completely new from what I had seen during its early construction phase.

    Gender inclusive toilet run by a woman

    Nilam at her shop adjacent to public toilet

    As I entered the toilet premises, I saw a woman in charge of the shop. The public toilet facility operator, Nilam Chaudhary hails from Khaire Chandanpur. She recalls, “About 5-6 months ago, my husband came back home from work and said he had signed an agreement with Gulariya Municipality to operate the public toilet with a shop and I needed to operate the both.” Being a housewife, she was afraid at the beginning but now she is getting familiar to running the facility.

    She operates the facility from 8:30 in morning to 6:30 in the evening. She also takes care of her two-and-half-year-old son and household chores. She thinks it would have been easier to manage the time had there been a room to stay. She could operate the facility for more time as well. However, she doesn’t find any difference between the male, female and third gender toilet designs.

    Designed for self-sustainability

    Practical Action implemented Safa Swastha Gulariya project in Gulariya Municipality of Bardiya District from August 2014 to July 2016. The project, funded by DFID under UK Aid match fund, was implemented through Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO), a national NGO. One of the major activities of the project was to declare ‘Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015’. For the improvement of the public sanitation aspect, the project constructed the public toilet in the bazaar near the police office and district hospital area. This public toilet, unique in its inclusive nature, has separate facilities for both male and female as well as a separate cubicle for third gender.

    The facility earns income through the user charge, parking charge for vehicles and sale of goods from the shop. The income from the toilet and shop is kept separately but the expenditures are not kept separately. Nilam told the facility operates almost at breakeven and sometimes the income is not enough to pay the monthly lease fee to the municipality. Comparatively, most of the toilet users are males followed by third gender and then by women. The male toilet users mostly are the pedestrians, travelers and public transport drivers.

    Social aspects of managing a public toilet

    Different sections of public toilet

    The social aspect of engagement of women in public sanitation business is not so negative. When someone asks her about job, Nilam tells them she operates both the shop and public toilet in the same building. She also has never got negative feedback from others that she is in the business of operating a public toilet.

    One of the most common answers she gets from users when asked about user fee is, “Why she charges user fee for a service provided by the government.

    The business aspect of operating a shop in public toilet comes into use when a person pays for user fee and asks for candies, bubble gum, etc., in lieu of small change.

    The predefined traditional perspective of sanitation service, especially public toilets being managed by the so-called lower castes, the untouchables placed lowest at the social hierarchy can be changed. The successful engagement of women from different social and economic strata can create a changed outlook of public sanitation business. This also helps being inclusive, not only in terms of service to different genders, but also engaging middle class families to support their livelihoods.

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  • From despair to dignity – emergency response project in Sudan


    May 24th, 2017

    Heavy rain that hit the eastern region of Sudan in the summer of 2016 and flashfloods, caused substantial damage to communities in Kassala state.  This posed unique challenges and exposed local communities to different areas of vulnerability.

    In response, Practical Action and Plan Sudan, working in the Aqua4East Partnership, a water  project in the region, developed a six months emergency response initiative to protect the  area from the negative impacts of the emergency situation. The priority was to help the affected communities respond to, and rapidly recover from this disaster, and to strengthen their resilience to future natural crises. Practical Action focused on addressing the life-saving needs of vulnerable affected people through a holistic water, sanitation, and hygiene programme.

    This story of Adam and his family is just one of thousands of success stories of families that benefited from the this project in Kassala, one of the country’s poorest states.

    Await village is 35km north of Kassala city. The region suffers from chronic poverty, food insecurity, lack of access to basic facilities, and limited support from state government. The people of Await are extremely poor; they lack the basic facilities of life; including education, health, and hygiene. The local culture and social restrictions imposed by the community keeps girls out of classroom education.

    Adam Mohamed Abu Fatima is a 45 year old man whose life has been a hard struggle for him and his family.

    I used to have no hope and was never able to help my family.

    His wife is terminally ill due to unhealthy food and lack of income. Adam really wanted to help her, but the costs of medicines, and seeing a doctor were too high. He has five children, two boys and three girls. The two boys and the youngest girl are enrolled in primary school. The two older girls help the family make a living, look after their mother, and take care of other domestic work.

    Adam’s story shows how much change can come about when a family works together and supports each other.

    Adam used to earn his living from carrying water  and fetching firewood.  He earned around his earning were on average SDG 20 per day (£2.30). Things started to improve when the water committee in Twaite purchased him a donkey cart fitted with two water drums to supply water on a daily basis to the latrines newly constructed by the Emergency Response Project.  These were built to reduce the practice of open area defection and subsequently reduce contamination and spread of diseases in the village. Adam also uses this donkey cart  to sell water to the community. His income has increased by SDG 100 (£12) per day, after putting aside enough to feed the donkey and keep it healthy and for cart maintenance.  He also makes a daily contribution of SDG 20 (£2.30) to the water committee.

    The donkey cart contributed by the project and managed by the village Water Committee

    Adam is so pleased about how things are changing for him and his family. He can now help his neighbours by supplying water for them.  His family learned how to keep chickens and have bought six chickens and one cockerel and are now breeding hens.  The eggs were great for the children and the rest are sold at the local market. His daughters look after the chickens, clean the house, and cook for the family.

    One of the three latrine blocks constructed by the project in the village

    The family works as a team, Adam’s elder daughter attended the farm training facilitated by the project and is now starting to cultivate her own small home farm, making use of the availability of water and the donkey’s manure to improve the fertility of the soil on her farm for increased crop production.  Neighbours are now coming to find out how they farm and they help others whenever possible, so the family, their neighbours and the community are all better off.

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  • Making the invisible Eco-Warriors; the informal Waste Pickers, visible


    April 24th, 2017

    I see few of them every morning; first while going for my walk and then while going to my office. They come to the locality little early before the municipal authorized waste pickers come for the waste collection so as they can segregate the reusable items beforehand, collect those and then can sell it to the kabadiwala. I am talking about the “informal waste pickers” who play a big role in keeping the city and neighborhood clean, but don’t get the recognition they deserve. Bhubaneswar generates around 600 tonnes of solid waste per day and the city is providing habitation to around 1500 numbers of waste pickers and their families.

    Some research report shows 90% of discarded recyclable PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) in India gets recycled, ahead of countries with formalized waste management. Most of these are collected by informal waste collectors who sell it to middlemen who then resell to recycling factories. In most of the cities the same business model is working.

    Go and meet few waste pickers you will clearly observe that lower caste or Dalits and other minorities are mostly performing this task. They belong to the most marginalized sections of the city. Most of them are uneducated and even their children perform the same task. And yes they are associated with dirt. The stray dogs bark at them and even the most of the city dwellers look at them differently.

    The misery is that they clean and appears dirty and we dirt the city and appear clean. Do not you think they do a great job !!! They need recognition for this job which they perform for their livelihood.  As most of them are not educated they are cheated by the middle man and sell their collected materials at a lesser price. As they are not into formal sector they perform the task without any safety gear and put their health at risk. I accept they do this job as per their own wish but from a different angle, they perform the task of the local municipality without being paid for that.

    We at Practical Action initiated a project among the children of the informal waste pickers few years back. And one component of that project was to formalize the informal waste workers and provide them with valid identity card so that they can take the benefit of the government schemes. I am not going to discuss the whole project achievement here, but the field team managed by a local NGO called as CCWD made tremendous efforts with technical support from Practical Action in influencing the municipality to recognize the work of the informal waste works. The project was funded by BVLF for 2 years.

    BMC Mayor Sri Ananta Narayan Jena handing over ID card to waste workers of Bhubaneswar

    When it came to the social security of the Informal waste workers, the state had no provisions for them and one of the major reason was, these waste workers were not identified in the labour category. We continued our advocacy for more than a year with taking up a lot of initiatives. We formed the ‘Abrajana Gotali Mahasangha’ the first of its kind formal union among the waste pickers of the city. A series of training programmes on different safety measures and awareness on getting their basic facilities from the municipality were organised. The union later took this up and went ahead to meet the municipal authorities along with the project staffs. After several meetings and approach, the authority finalized acknowledged the informal waste workers of the city and a process of identification was initiated.

    Deputy commissioner BMC Sri Srimanta Mishra among the waste workers with their ID cards

    The municipality agreed to provide valid identity card to the informal waste pickers and also some additional benefits in terms of safety and social security was assured. Though the project is over but a constant supervision has led to a number of 755 informal waste workers being provided with the identity card. They are now recognized as labours in other category and this makes them eligible to get benefits from various government schemes.

    Yet again, this number is not enough. This is the story of just one city. Odisha has more than 100 urban local bodies where we can find the similar set of people. This is high time, other municipalities and urban local bodies must consider the informal waste workers and provide them with the required social security and safety what they deserve.

    ( Download ‘LIFE DIGNIFIED’ a case study compendium on the said project here. )

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  • Success Story of a Water Initiative


    April 19th, 2017

    Haladete-East is a village located 40 km North from the city of Kassala, Eastern Sudan. It is a home of over 4800 people, from which 2850 are women. This is a story of an amazing water initiative that benefited not only one family but the entire village of Haladete-East!

    Access to water has always been a serious problem in Haladete-East. Because there was no water nearby, people had to walk every day nearly three hours, through deserted roads, to collect water. Their only source of water was a remote hand-pump that was unreliable. The walks to collect water were tough and because of the heavy weight, only limited amount of water could be brought back to the village. Because of this, water could only be used to absolute necessities such as cooking and drinking.

    To solve the problem, Practical Action launched a project called Aqua for East. The project, funded by DFID, aimed to improve the water security for the benefit of the whole community. To do this, Practical Action needed to build a water tank that would be big enough to provide water for 4800 people!

    The first step in the project was to identify a location with a steady underground water supply (through hydrological studies and water catchment surveys). This ensured that the water supply would not run dry – even during the driest times. Once the right location was selected, Practical Action build the water tank, including two different distribution stations. One station was for women and the other for men. Each station included six water taps.

    What makes this project so special, is the substantial community engagement. With the help of Practical Action, people living in the village established a Water Committee that looked after the management of the water distribution, including financial management and preparations should a damage occur.

    Because of the Aqua for East initiative, the life of the people living in Haladete-East is now easier, healthier, more dignified and joyful. To summarise:

    1. People do not need to walk long distances to collect water anymore. They now have an easy access to clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. In addition, small scale farming and animal farming have benefited from the secured water supply.

    2. The initiative has had a tremendous impact on improved hygiene. Villagers are now able to wash their hands and shower more often, to do laundry and clean their homes. Furthermore, the food is less contaminated and diet more healthier due to in-house cultivated vegetables.

    3. More girls are going to school instead of collecting water. In addition, they have more time to socialise and participate in income generating activities.

    Nafish O’shak, one of the villagers, said: Before, the community health promoters used to give us strong hygiene advice, but without water we could not do what we were advised to do. Now we have sufficient water and we are very hygienic. Our clothes, food and houses are extremely clean.

    Is that a revolutionary impact or what?

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  • Roxana Añez – Empowered by emergency


    March 22nd, 2017

    Roxana Añez is a Bolivian woman and a mother of nine children. She lives in small indigenous community in Tacana Altamarani which is located onroxana the river Beni, three hours downriver from San Buenaventura.

    Roxana, an intelligent and driven woman, has always wanted to study and increase her knowledge for the benefit of herself and her community. Unfortunately, because of the social and cultural norms, it has not been possible. Like in many other indigenous communities in Bolivia, a woman’s role is to ‘serve’ her husband and children. This meant that Roxana, like other women in Altamarani, had to spend her days walking to the river bank and back to collect water and to do the washing. After these daily chores, there was no time left for anything else.

    “That was our life. To climb up that ravine under the burning sun, with all the bottles of water and clothes that needed washing.”

    In 2014, the course of Roxana’s life suddenly changed. This was the year when heavy rains and flooding tormented the little community in Altamarani. Because of the flooding, the people in the community lost over 80 per cent of their crops. In addition, their access to clean water was cut – leaving the whole community on the brink of survival.

    roxana2Practical Action, in partnership with Christian Aid, responded to the emergency. Based on the analysis of the situation, they quickly identified, that the primary need in the area was clean water. Because of the flooding, the water was difficult to access. In addition to this, the water in river Beni was contaminated, causing severe health problems.

    In order to solve the problem, Practical Action installed a solar-powered water pumping system which is a great technology for emergency response because it does not require any fuel costs. Thanks to this new technology, people in Altamarani now have access to clean water at their homes.

    Because of the installed water pumping system, Roxana no longer spends her days walking to the river bank and back. This means that she finally has time to educate herself and to do other things she has always dreamt of. Shortly after the pumping system was built, she participated in the agroforestry knowledge exchange programme that thought her new, sustainable ways of farming.

    “I have now returned to my community to put all that knowledge into practice. I wish everyone had the opportunity to leave and participate in these kind of activities, so they can learn. I want to keep learning.”

    Because of her knowledge and eagerness to learn, Roxana is now one of the leaders in her community. Together with her husband, she owns a farm that produces fruits and medical plants. In the future, Roxana wants to keep on learning and developing herself for the benefit of the community.

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Roxana!

    Want to help women like Roxana this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here. 

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  • Talking shit at FSM4 Conference – Feedback on our sanitation work in Bangladesh

    Talking about shit for a week in India — a fascinating context to present our sanitation work! India, a country that has undertaken a huge and ambitious national scale clean-up campaign (Swachh Bharat/Clean India Mission), hosted the LOGO4th_faecal_sludge_management_conference4th Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) Conference in Chennai this February. In total, 1,100 practitioners, governments and private sector representatives from all over the world participated in the conference. This was a truly unique sharing and visibility opportunity for our organisation. As a result, we ran out of our latest Technology Justice paper on Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) on the second day of the conference!

    During the conference, we shared lessons from the preliminary operation of the business model we are implementing in Faridpur, Bangladesh, as part of the ‘Public Private Partnerships (PPP) for Sustainable Sludge Management Services’ project  (Gates Foundation – DFID funding). We also provided the community of practice with some key insights on the relevance of business modelling and market-based solutions in FSM, and received some excellent feedback from the participants, because we were addressing the following issues:

    Why work on FSM  The dreadful economic and health costs of poor sanitation

    The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program estimates the economic costs of poor sanitation in Bangladesh to be USD 4.2 billion each year. This was equivalent to 6.3 per cent of Bangladesh’s GNP in 2007! This shows that the health impacts dwarf the economic costs. In Bangladesh, open defecation has remarkably decreased to only 1 per cent (from 34 per cent in 1990). However, in most secondary towns, like Faridpur, there are no sewers. Residents rely on on-site sanitation, combined with unsafe FSM practices. In addition, 90 per cent of the sludge in Faridpur was not safely emptied or transported when we first assessed the situation in 2014. The absence of drainage or emptying facilities in the low-income settlements results in overflowing toilets, which simply leads to the problem of open defecation reoccurring! This is the main reason why we developed our programme in Bangladesh. This project now mixes hardware (e.g. treatment plant) and software solutions (e.g. private entrepreneurs and municipality partnership around FSM business).A national FSM framework to fill the legal vacuum in Bangladesh
    Bangladesh FSM NetworkThe health and economic risks presented above are what we call a “second-generation sanitation challenge”.  Bangladesh has achieved 99 per cent access to sanitation. However, the key challenge now is: how can both, public and private sector actors, safely manage all the sludge that is contained in these new on-site systems.  Practical Action and ITN-BUET (our partner University) work on developing viable business models for the problem. In addition, we have been developing a National Institutional and Regulatory Framework for FSM. This was inexistent in Bangladesh but is now being approved. This framework will significantly clarify roles for the municipalities in charge. It is now complemented by the strategic policy advocacy and knowledge dissemination; role played by the newly created National FSM Network, including I/NGOs, CSOs, government, private sector and industries. Practical Action was a key founder of this network.

    Lessons and highlights from the FSM4 Conference

    • Awareness raising and demand generation are the key to kick-start new FSM businesses.Street Drama, World Toilet Day
    • Early indications show, that pit-emptiers in Faridpur are now seeing an increase in demand. As a result, faecal waste is now safely disposed at the treatment plant. While some projects have tended to underestimate activities such as street drama, cycling events, cleanliness drives, quiz contests and cycle rallies. These have proven to be the central drivers of a progressive increase in revenue from pit-emptying. Further, they create a sense of ownership and environmental awareness. Increased demand for a trustworthy service demonstrates good potential for uptake of such models.

    • A cross-subsidised tariff system is required to attain a responsive service in these cities.

    Income that pit-emptiers get from fees cannot fully cover the cost of collecting, transporting, treating and disposing the sludge. This is why business models explore the possibilities to have other sources of revenues; such as a smart subsidy from the Municipality, and sales of co-compost from sludge in medium-long term.

    FSM Business ModelTaking a system’s approach helps seeing the bigger picture and to forsee interconnected issues.

      • Looking at FSM as a system (i.e. including all stakeholders, rules, norms beyond the mere service chain household-to-treatment plant) allowed the project team to see hidden strengths and blockages that would only have been uncovered later on. By doing so, the Faridpur project could:
        • Build on the informal sector as an existing and relatively efficient service provider and
        • Understand conflictive incentives in providing pit-emptying services.
        Practical Action is good at facilitating participatory and inclusive design of partnerships between Municipalities and the private sector,

    e.g. between FaridpurMunicipality, formalised pit-emptiers, and a treatment plant operator. Years of collaboration with municipalities have helped to build trust, and therefore, to facilitate the design of such business models that are flexible, modular and adaptable to how demand for pit-emptying evolves over time.

    Outstanding questions and food for thoughtPreliminary operation of the FSM business model, Faridpur, Bangladesh

    • The multi- stakeholder’s steering committee, set up in Faridpur Municipality to oversee the performance of the service, will play a key role in rolling out and scaling up the service – is it possible to use this model in other Water & Sanitation projects to ensure ownership and to take this approach to scale?
    • We should have a better understanding of pro-poor sanitation services in our projects. Our projects are focusing on scale and profitability, however the question of the affordability of emptying services for the poorest in Faridpur was raised by our peers.
    • Could we not complement our systems and business approach with a “Rights-Based Approach”? Human rights based approaches (HRBAs) are successfully used to build citizens’ capacity to claim this basic right to the Government.

    For more information about why our sanitation work matters, watch our Bangladesh Director Hasin Jahan’s TED Talk.

     

     

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  • Sanitation is everyone’s responsibility


    February 16th, 2017

    Practical Action, in collaboration with Kassala Women Development Association Network (KWDAN), organized an environmental sanitation campaign in four villages in the Talkok area, Toiat, Temegrif, Tahjer Kanjer and Bariay.

    The slogan for the campaign was ‘Environmental sanitation is everyone’s responsibility!’

    The campaign was launched in Twaite village on 30 January and continued for two days, before moving on to the other villages.  The first day in Twaite proved a success with the local community adopting the ideas.

    sanitation in TalkokThe organisations that participated in this campaign were the HAC, Practical Action, Kassala Women Association Network, and Talkok Health Office. It was a good idea to start in the boy’s school because children are the future, we rely on them.

    Children were motivated by the campaign slogan and toured  the village urging others citizens to see sanitation as an important part of a healthy life.

    sanitation in Talkok

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  • Improving latrine usage in Darasta


    January 31st, 2017

    The Aqua4East project in Telkok is working towards its communities becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF).  This will be achieved through practical activities such as latrine construction, burying faeces and keeping compounds and stream beds clean. The project is encouraging the Darasta community to use the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach.

    children Darasta CLTSThe group which was trained in these methods noted an improvement in latrine construction and encouraged people to build their own household latrines. In the past other organizations built latrines for some households but they were not used properly.  Now people understand their importance better and most of them are used.

    Sita Ahmed Adam, aged 25, said that she and her family have started digging and soon they will have their own latrine.  They now understand that their faeces can contaminate their hands and their food if they do not  properly dispose of their waste.

    CLTS in DarastaAmna Omer Hohamoud, aged 20 and her husband attended the CLTS training and recounted the importance of the family working together – wife, husband and children. They have now completed and use their latrine.

    “Now we feel comfortable we have the latrine inside the house and avoid people looked  at us and we go in the open, Also we know how to clean our hands after visiting the latrine with soap or ash.”

    The community members told us that the appearance of faeces on the street are less now that defecating in the open has reduced. They hope soon to be open defecation free.

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  • Promoting inclusive urban growth


    January 3rd, 2017

    Stories of urban cleaners society in Bangladesh

    by Md. A. Halim Miah, Makfie Farah, Uttam Kumar Saha and Hasin Jahan

    History reveals that there were a special group of people who, unlike other artisans like smiths and weavers, worked at cleaning sewerage and drainage system in the old urban civilizations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. They were mostly enslaved. We are now under the charter of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights where every man has equal rights to choose their profession and lead a decent life with dignity and equality.

    Urban cleaner is a caste or class?

    FSMAs well as that Indus civilization as we also had a thousand year old urban centre named Pundra nagar. That city had also had a ‘cleaner class’, a special artisan community culturally called ‘Harijan’.

    Among the society of cleaners in Bangladesh there are broadly two communities based on their religious identity – a Hindu or Harijan community and a Muslim sweeper community.

    In the Hindu religious system society is segregated into a caste system of four professional groups. The Harijan community is one of these. Mahatma Gandhi, a famous Indian political leader renowned for his non-violence movement and social reform, worked for the rights of those human groups who did not have minimum dignity as human beings.  He tried to bring them in the main stream Hindu society by giving them a new name. He called them Harijan (hari means most honourable) and that was officially declared as ‘scheduled’.

    There is no social stratification in Islam but in practice lower status communes exist in  society who are exploited in many ways due to their low status profession like ‘Kulu’ (traditionally oil producer), ‘Jhula’ (weavers) and ‘Hajam (circumcision).  As today many people from rural peasants society have moved away from their land and traditional livelihoods due to natural disasters and are forced to take shelter in urban and peri-urban areas. These poor people, who do not have skills that fit with the urban economy, are  engaging in this type of lower skills based employment. They face economic, social, and cultural marginalization.

    Political economy of cleaners

    participationAvailable statistics show that there are around 150,000 Harijan in Bangladesh.  If we include Muslim cleaners in this profession then the number is higher and is gradually increasing with urbanization.  There are around 532 urban centres in Bangladesh representing 35% of the population and contributing 80% of national GDP (MHHDC, 2014). Experts suggest that rapid urbanisation will mean that this number will reach 50% by 2030.

    Each day 13,333 MT of urban waste is generated – per capita this is ½ kg per day. This study was conducted in 2005 when there were 512 urban centres and the total urban population was around 25%.  This increased to 35% in 2016 so waste generation today could be around 20,000 MT per day.

    For a liveable city and healthy urbanization we need improved and modernized cleaning services and a professional group with skills and adequate logistics. We can not expect these improvements immediately, but need a priority plan to take the country and our economy to the stage of middle income countries where per capita gross national income starts from  US$1,026 to $ 12,475.

    How do we expect to do this when we ignore around two million people whose services are required daily to foster our urban economy and production? Are they being exploited? Is their work less economically valuable than that of other artisans among the urban classes? We cannot afford to ignore the cost of negligence of proper sanitation cleanliness.

    A study ‘The Human Waste’, conducted by Water Aid and Tearfund shows that  in developing countries 80% of disease is due to poor sanitation. People suffering from water borne diseases occupy half of the world’s hospital beds. Poor sanitation causes an increased burden of disease, numbers in hospital, a daily work loss, lower participation of children in school and the long term effect on health from anaemia and stunted growth.

    The report also reveals that school sanitation programs increase the enrolment of girls annually by 11%. My 12 year old daughter was admitted to a new school after her graduation from class five to six. In the beginning she reported to me that her school toilets were not cleaned properly so she did not want to continue at that school. She repeatedly reported this to her class teachers and she is now fine with her present school. So we can see how the social and economic value of this cleaning works!

    Why are cleaners not a development priority?

    The Bangladesh constitution confirms equal rights for every citizen under the article 19(1) “the state will attempt  to ensure equal; opportunities for all the citizens” and also article 20(1) where every citizens rights are agreed with same value  regardless of their caste, class, religion and sex. But in practice what we see is that communities like cleaners are deprived in many ways of equal access to basic citizen services.

    A recent study conducted by Professor Ainoon Naher and Abu Ala Mahmud Hasan among the harijan of northern Bangladesh (HEKS/EPER, 2016) shows that, “In general, the common feeling among the Dalit is that they have always been looked down upon by the mainstream/dominant groups who tend to avoid Dalit in public spaces”. It also reveals that Dalit women are the ‘marginalized among the marginalized’.

    Social safety nets are a major instrument of the Bangladesh government to reduce poverty and hunger. The allocation of safety nets is mostly rural biased with safety net packages more than three times higher in rural areas compare to urban (House Hold Income and Expenditure Survey , 2010, Pp. 72, BBS).  Girls from extreme poor communities who live in urban slums are not entitled to school stipend program as metropolitan cities are excluded from that safety net policy.

    The Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) network Bangladesh organized a national convention of pit emptiers on 7th December 2016 in Dhaka. Around 92 pit emptiers from 20 municipalities attended. It was an exceptional day for the development workers as well as for these most marginalized people. They identified plenty of eye awakening issues (revealed in the table below) about what we need to know if we really want to change the world

    Table:  Extent of deprivation of cleaners

    Health & SecurityEquityDignityFair income
    “We want equal attention in health care centres when we become sick”“We want to play together with all the children”

    “We are avoided in social events even though we attend we are humiliated”“What we earn monthly that is enough for twenty days and rest of the days we have to live with borrow from informal money lenders with high interest of repayment”

    What is the solution?

    Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary of the United Nations commented that ‘No- one left behind’ is the underlying moral code of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. He  emphasized that people who are hardest to reach should be given priority.  Practical Action Bangladesh have implemented a four year (2012-2016) multi-country (Bangladesh, Nepal & Sri Lanka) project named Integrated Urban Development ( IUD2) that focused on participatory planning for inclusive urban governance.

    The findings of this project are encouraging for development thinkers and policy makers. It followed a participatory approach to include urban cleaners in the development process with a drive to demonstrate pro poor urban governance.  Narratives from project beneficiaries show that they were enlightened by understanding the democratic process and how to identify problems and solutions through a participatory planning process. “We can arrange election in our SIC reformation, exercise and enjoy democracy”,  said Rumpa Begum, Slum Improvement Committee, Faridpur.

    We learned that to create an enabling environment for interaction between two classes of people (elite and proletariat) governance improvement is essential. At the same time a focus on improving skills and reducing health and safety risks is important for transforming any economic sector.

    Customized gulpher for emptying pitIn the history of human society the dominant class has always controlled advanced technology. So creating access to technology for this class can make change happen. I found this to be true for the cleaners’ community of the Faridpur municipality. At the beginning of this year Urban and Energy Service Program of Practical Action, Bangladesh organized an impact review and learning workshop. One of the main stakeholders of this program was city /municipality government. Anisur Rahman Chowdhury, an honourable counsellor of the Faridpur Municipality, who commented in one of the learning sessions on Practical Action’s engagement in the development of his city:

    “Earlier I myself never give space to stand my side any mathor (Cleaner) but when I found that they are now use machines for emptying pit. They do not get down into inside of the pit. I found there is no any bad smell with their body. They are doing like other mechanic or civil engineering works. So I sit with them in a same table at tea stall”.

    I think this is the way to change social perspectives and change the lives of the most disadvantaged communities in any country.  This has also been recommended by Mr. ABM Khurshed Alam, Chairman of the National Skills Development Council to make available modern tools and machinery which could change their status. He also suggested for arranging certificate course for increasing skills of the people of this profession.

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  • Bidding adieu to 2016 : 10 best examples of practical solutions from India


    December 30th, 2016

    With a number of challenges on the field and off the field, the team in India has managed to deliver some good sustainable practical solutions in last couple of years. Moving ahead for an eventful 2017 and with added challenges and milestones, I thought of ending the year with looking back at the sustainable practical solutions we have served so far.

    Development is a process as we all know and in Practical Action the biggest learning so far I have got is how to make this process a sustainable one. Here I have documented 10 different projects and interventions which have been sustainable or aiming at sustainability delivering practical solutions.

    1. ACCESS cook stoves

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    Access Grameen Mahila Udyog, in Koraput which is nurtured by Practical Action has been instrumental in manufacturing and marketing of improved cook stoves. The cook stoves generate less smoke, save fuel and time.

    It has contributed to less carbon emission and has resulted in healthier living environment in rural tribal houses.

    2. SOURA RATH (Solar Power Cart)

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    Practical Action India developed a portable solar-powered cart (Mobile Solar Energy System) that provides energy for 72 hours to power mobile phones, laptops, lights and water pumps. The cart can serve up to a capacity of 5KW and can be used during the post-disaster emergency and is easy to be relocated from one place to another.

    This model is applauded by Government of Odisha and is now being showcased at the Solar Park for public. We strongly feel this can add value to the cyclone shelter houses if used appropriately

    3. SUNOLO SAKHI 

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    Young girls and women in 60 slums of Bhubaneswar have formed Sakhi Clubs and spreading the knowledge on menstrual hygiene among other girls and peers. Our innovative radio Programme ‘Sunolo Sakhi’ has broken the taboo and enabled a conducive environment for discussion on menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls. The first ever radio show on menstrual hygiene Sunolo Sakhi is instrumental in bringing about change in the menstrual hygiene practices and behaviour of these young girls resulting in better health.

    The comprehensive programme Sunolo Sakhi is also providing Audio book for visually challenged and video book for hearing and speech impaired girls in the State.

    4.  COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE 

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    Community led water management has helped this tribal village Sundertaila in Nayagarh district to be self-sufficient in getting clean drinking water. Not only practical solutions but introducing user friendly and sustainable technology options at the last mile and serving them with basic needs is something what Practical Action tries to invest in its program efforts.

    5. SMRE

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    18 years old Sunil Tadingi of Badamanjari is now a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite all odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified with the help of a self-sustained micro hydro power generation unit.

    Badamanjari has set an example in Koraput district by generating around 40KW electricity to provide light to all the households of the village and people are able to watch TV and use fans as well. Rice hauler and turmeric processing units are also running with additional energy generated, as a result creating entrepreneurs like Sunil.

    6. Small wind energy systems (SWES)

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    60 poor families in Kalahandi district of Odisha once deprived of access to electricity are electrified now. The wind and solar hybrid system by Practical Action has solved the basic energy need of the villagers with street lights, home lighting and fans.

    Kamalaguda and Tijmali, these two villages are on the top of the hills where it was a day dream for getting electricity to fight with the night. Now, the villagers are capacitated to manage the systems by themselves without any external support.

    7. PROJECT NIRMAL

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    At the backdrop of poor sanitation facilities in small and medium cities of Odisha, ‘Project Nirmal’ supports two fast growing urban hubs like Dhenkanal and Angul municipalities with a pilot intervention for appropriate & sustainable city wide sanitation service.

    Project Nirmal aims at benefitting both the municipalities to set up Faecal Sludge Management systems by establishing treatment plants to treat the faecal sludge

    8. Safe and Healthy Environment for Children of Waste Workers

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    “I felt very happy the moment I received the Identity Card from the Dept. of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Odisha” Says Salima Bibi a 25 year old informal waste worker from a Slum near Dumduma under Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).

    Many informal waste workers in the state are being formalised and now accessing and availing their legitimate citizen rights.

    9. LITRE OF LIGHT 

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    Light comes from water bottles. Litre of Light is an open source technology which has been successfully experimented in 120 households in the slums of Bhubaneswar. It has now lessened the use of electric light during day time.

    Small children can even study and men and women can do delicate cloth weaving and other productive activities during day time with the light provided by these solar water bulbs.

    10. Safe and Healthy Environment for Children of Waste Workers
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    117 children of informal waste workers have been enrolled in schools in one day and are continuing their schooling; they were engaged in rag picking or related works previously.

    While working with alternative energy, Practical Action focuses on advocating and influencing the society for a step ahead towards meaningful development

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