BENEFITING: SKOLL COMMUNITY FUND
ORGANIZER: Gram Vikas
Gram Vikas wrote -
Gram Vikas' work in India has been focusing primarily in the eastern state of Odisha, which has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the poorest states in the country. Our association with the rural communities in the region started in the late '70s working, in particular, with the poorest communities (indigenous people, also called adivasis, and scheduled castes, also called dalits). Over the years we came to realize that social exclusion in rural societies is the real bane preventing communities to work collectively to solve their problems; and such stratifications resulted in people lacking access to basic services like safe drinking water.
We noticed that ill health in rural locations, caused by consumption of unsafe water, constituted a major burden on the household economy. However, if things needed to change, it would not be by treating the symptom alone. The cause of the problem had to be tackled – and that was the unhygienic practice of defecating in the open. In rural Odisha, 85% of the population continues to defecate out in the open - along roadsides or near the water bodies.
Thus, in the mid-'90s, we launched MANTRA (Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas). The intervention focuses on changing the waste disposal behavior of rural citizens through construction of private toilets and shower rooms for each household and providing 24 hours piped running water through taps to each home: one in the toilet, one in the shower and the third tap for the kitchen. What makes MANTRA unique is that it strives to overcome the societal barriers or other exclusion practices in a “all or none “ approach. All families must take part in the programme: even a single family not doing so, is bound to affect its entire roll out. This was "all or none" clause was adopted for two reasons: first, to ensure that every member of a community enjoys the benefits of our intervention equally (especially the poorest and most marginalized), and second because if even one family continues to practice open defecation, this will endanger the outcomes of the project, as it will still continue to contaminate nearby water sources, thus spreading diseases polluting the environment.The sanitation and water infrastructure is established with a lot of contribution from each household, thus creating a sense of communal and personal ownership, which in turn ensures its long term sustainability. Furthermore, by doing this, Gram Vikas has demonstrated several essential points. First, we must stop viewing the poor as simple beneficiaries of development interventions: they are active actors, and if given the chance are willing to pay (even with minimum government support) for quality services. From this follows directly the belief that the mainstream mindset that poor people need poor-quality solutions is wrong: not only they are willing to pay for quality services, but they will also avoid using those services they perceive as being bad of quality.
After more than 30 years from its start, Gram Vikas’ commitment to the needs of the rural poor remains unscathed, and it is strengthened by statements like the one of Lalita Malik, from Tamana village: “Our village is better than the town. We have 24*7 piped water supplies to all families, without exception. Every family has its own toilet and bathing room as well. When we seek marriage alliances, our daughters ask us – ‘ would there be similar facilities there as well?”
As of March 2013, we have been able to implement our water and sanitation projects in over 1043 villages, providing individual toilets and bathing rooms for 60,763 families, and facilitating the involvement of around 330,000 individuals.
These results are surely significant, but much still needs to be done: India possesses the shameful record of having nearly 50% of its households with no sanitation facilities (65.2% in rural areas), and of being responsible for 60% of open defecation in the world. This state of things is unacceptable, and additional resources and efforts are needed both at national and international level. Indeed, poor hygiene conditions directly affect health and living conditions of the rural poor, making it impossible for them to exit their state of poverty (waterborne diseases are still one of the major causes of death in developing countries, even though they are easily preventable and curable).
Health is the most important economic asset of the poor. If they are not healthy they cannot work, if they cannot work they cannot sustain their basic everyday needs (let alone gain some extra-income); furthermore, every day lost due to sickness does not only represent loss of potential additional income, but also high expenditures on healthcare services, which contribute to further impoverish them.
Thus, if You want to help us in our fight against poverty in Odisha, please visit our website at http://gramvikas.org/, or follow us on our Facebook page to get all our latest news https://www.facebook.com/GramVikasOfficial?fref=ts.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP
Every contribution, even the smallest one, is essential, hence we invite you to support Gram Vikas in its efforts to provide clean drinking water, better health and a dignified life to the rural poor. Following are some examples of how your contribution can help us providing clean water and sanitation services to the rural poor in Odisha:
- With only 3 US$ You can help us buying and installing a water tap to a family;
- With just 5 US$ You can provide a family with one porcelain pan for a new toilet;
- Make it 14 US$ You will have provided a family with a toilet pan, and the three taps: 1 in the bathroom, 1 in the toilet, and one in the kitchen;
- With 48 US$ we will be able to provide hygiene training for school children for one day;
- 100 US$ will help us buy all the necessary hardware (steel, cement, doors, etc.) for the construction of one toilet and one bathroom for one household.
- By giving 190 US$ you will help us purchase water testing units, which are essentail to ensure that the drinking water in the villages is potable;
- With 328 US$ you will help us build a toilet and a shower room for 1 family;
- 1.970 US$ covers the costs of constructing a borewell or a dugwell, the essential water source of one entire village;
- Lastly, with 4.920 US$ You will have provided one village with its own water tower.