ENDING OPEN SANITATION IN INDIA
BY PROFESSOR RAO R. BHAVANI
More than half of the world’s people without access to sanitation live in rural India. While open defecation has devastating effects for everyone, women and girls are disproportionately affected. When girls hit puberty for instance, their dropout rates increase dramatically due to the lack of sanitary napkins and basic facilities. In the workplace too, women have higher rates of absenteeism and subsequently lose productivity and vital income. And, in addition to the lack of privacy and dignity, women who have to walk a kilometer or more after dark to relieve themselves in an open field are far more vulnerable to the risk of sexual assault.
India’s government recently set a goal to end open defecation nationwide by 2019. In support of this effort, Embracing the World’s Amrita University developed a unique approach: that rural women, who stand to gain the most from improved sanitation, could be empowered with knowledge and resources to solve this problem for themselves. And that computer- and tablet-based education could replace hard to reach -training facilities to bring plumbing skills to remote villages.
Now, Amrita University is offering computerized vocational courses in masonry and plumbing to village women across India so they can construct, install and maintain toilets in their communities. This outreach is now being conducted in 21 states across India, with an initial target population of 30,000 people. Through these efforts Amrita University is working to provide proof of concept so that this model can be scaled up and deployed by other organizations as well.