Salma Singh, clothed in colors of the rainbow and carrying a water flagon on her head, elegantly picks her way across a mud engulfed square. It is November, unseasonably wet, and like most outlying villages of Vrindavan, unreasonably lacking in the most basic sanitation. The village lacks plumbing, pumps, and water that even the dignity of having a toilet is but a dream.
Salma is just one of the estimated 330 million women in India without access to basic sanitation and toilet facilities. It is both degrading and dangerous. Many women prefer to make ‘embarrassing’ visits to shared toilets under the cover of darkness. Ironically, this is to avoid contact with men; yet, in doing so, risk being raped, kidnapped, or bitten by snakes. Lack of toilet facilities for girls also affects educational opportunities because having to share toilets with boys makes it a very shameful experience at the age of puberty, with many girls dropping out of school altogether.
Sanitation, in general, is also an issue in India with raw sewage flowing into unpaved streets. A village such as Salma’s makes diseases from fungi, viruses, and parasites an everyday reality. An added obstacle is the country’s cultural reluctance to carry out regular maintenance for such a vital need, which is viewed as a ‘lowly’ activity. One way of tackling this issue has been to elevate what is seen as a degrading job to a higher status by giving it a new job description and ‘Toilet Technicians’ are now actively being recruited.
With sanitation being an important and wide reaching issue in India, it became clear that before we can institute programs for micro-finance, education, or training, the basic and most immediate need of all the women we met was sanitation, including access to water, toilets, and hygiene products and services. As a result, Montage Initiative will work with partners such as the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in India to help deliver our goals and make an immediate, tangible difference. WTO is part of a 151 network of member organizations from 53 countries that offer a wealth of experience and expertise, which Montage Initiative is a proud member.
Phase I of this project will include basic water and hygiene education and related training on the importance of clean water, how it becomes a dangerous breeding ground when it is not clean, maintenance training and delivery. We will ensure that knowledge and training are shared throughout the villages and that an increase in the understanding of basic sanitation products and services takes place. Montage Initiative aims to address barriers to consumption that affect change, while instilling responsibility and ownership in community-led initiatives.
Phase II of this project includes partnering with local organizations while connecting to experience on the ground and creating appropriate low cost sanitation products and essential support services. Working with local government agencies, we will focus on the development and support of a low cost, local sanitation industry. This will facilitate proper business training, which is cost effective and empowering while being mindful of industry needs. Our program includes ecology care, education, and ways to increase access to safe, sustainable, and affordable water and sanitation products and services in the area.
Help us take THE INITIATIVE and support the basic human right for access to potable water and sanitation for the women in the villages of Vrindavan.