Samarthan organized a two-day state-level consultation workshop on 6th and 7th September, with the objective of maximizing the outreach of our best practices in child-centric WASH. With the larger goal of influencing policy on child-centric WASH, the workshop also aimed to come up with recommendations on the National Policy for Children, 2012 that has been floated for people’s perspectives. During the workshop, Samarthan took the opportunity to share its processes, approaches and outcomes on CR-WASH project interventions with the civil society organizations (CSOs) working on child rights and on water & sanitation issues in Madhya Pradesh.
Samarthan’s Child-rights based WASH Initiative -
In 2009, Samarthan embarked on the project titled ‘Claiming Rights of Children to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene’. While Save the Children Finland (SCF) was our resource partner, WaterAid India supported with its domain expertise. The project is being implemented in 16 Gram Panchayats of the Sehore District of Madhya Pradesh covering 22 villages.
The main focus of the present project is to approach WASH from a child-rights perspective with the objective of mainstreaming the special needs and concerns of children, who are the most vulnerable, yet the most voiceless stakeholders when it comes to WASH.
The workshop was attended by over 40 participants comprising representatives of CSOs and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). During the inaugural session, Dr. Yogesh Kumar, Executive Director, Samarthan presented a background of the project by highlighting that In Madhya Pradesh not even half of the habitations have access to 40 litre per capita of water, the accepted norm for rural areas. He also emphasized that the situation is equally grim in terms of sanitation facilities; almost 91% of rural households do not have access to any form of toilets and 89 per cent do not have a bathing unit as per the Census 2011 data and that many regions in the state are affected by high content of fluoride, nitrate and iron in groundwater. Next, Mr. Binu Arickal, Program Officer, WaterAid, Bhopal in his address said that child-rights based WASH interventions can be made sustainable only through policy-level change and by building the capacities of the community. Ms. Seema Jain, the coordinator of Samarthan’s child-rights based WASH programme detailed the strategy, the process and the outcomes of the programme. According to Ms. Seema, first a baseline survey was conducted to get a sense of the realities on the ground. Next, the project team realized the need to build a cadre of youth who could connect with children and act as a communication medium between the project team and the children. The team started handpicking youth who had demonstrated enthusiasm and interest during their meetings with the community and constituting them into support groups. It was these support groups that played an instrumental role in making duty bearers in various institutions i.e. the Panchayat, VHSCs, Aanganwadis and Parent Teacher Assocations accountable, building capacities of the children and ensuring meaningful dialogue with the children.
The chief guest of the event was Mrs. Nirmala Buch, President Child Rights Observatory. In her speech she said that there should be ample voice for children who are the future citizens of the country. She also emphasized that the efforts for ensuring child-rights based WASH will be successful only if there is zero tolerance in this area. Thereafter, representatives of various CSO aired their concerns in front of the chief guest. Mr. Devendra from Dharti said that the agenda for Gram Sabhas is prepared at Bhopal level as a result of which WASH is seldom a priority for Panchayats. He emphasized the decentralization of Panchayat activities. Mr. Bhupendra from Datia emphasized that the problem should be look at in totality – if the school teachers are not regular to school they will not ensure timely cleaning of the toilets.
After lunch, the participants were divided into four groups and were taken to two villages i.e. Titora and Magarkheda of the Sehore district for exposure visits. During the exposure visits each team held discussions with community members with a view to understand the works carried out pertaining to child-rights based WASH.
The second day of the workshop began with presentations by the participants on the learnings from the exposure visit of the first day. The team that had visited village Titora said that the women and children there were quite vocal about their WASH-related concerns. Mr. Mahesh, a participant from Balaghat reported that he found the Village Health and Sanitation Committee was very sensitive to children’s WASH rights. According to him, the programme of ‘Khush-haal bachpan’ was integrated during the Gram Sabha. The representatives from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) reported there was good awareness among the people of Titora about Flouride content in water and they had also made a complaint to the concerned department.
One of the participants, Mr. Kamlesh Patidar who had visited village Magarkheda found limited participation of women and children in expressing their views about WASH. However, he noted that children were well aware of good hygiene practices. Mr. Irshad, another participant suggested that instead of a Bal Suchna Patal (a notice board for children to write their complaints on), a complaint box would be more effective in conveying the concerns of the children.
Mr. Binu Arickal, Program Officer, WaterAid, Bhopal also gave his feedback based on the visit to the project villages. He expressed satisfaction over the inclusion of Khushhaal Bachpan programme in the Gram Sabha but called for more efforts on the 18 points of the programme. He observed that the extensive child-rights based programme water stagnation was still a problem in Titora village and needs to be looked into.
Mr. Shobhit Jain, Managing Director of the Rajya Shiksha Kendra talked about administration’s steps to ensure proper sanitation in schools so that it does not become an impediment towards the achievement of Right to Education. He informed that toilet construction in all toilets will be ensured very soon. DIET will undertake inspection of schools to assess the condition of WASH facilities. Integration with NREGA programme will be undertaken for construction of boundary walls around schools. In addition, WASH concerns will be integrated into School Development Plans.