Shaping Community Engagement on Sanitation in the Urban Context: Sharing Experiences and Insights
Akhila Sivadas
Friday, 29 July 2016
3:00 pm
Conference Room, Centre for Policy Research

In Delhi since 2007, with the fate of the successive elections at state and local self-governance level, being fought, won and lost over the issue of ‘pani’, toilet and garbage collection, and the readiness of the government to provide these basic services, it is evident that the patience of the residents of over 600 odd JJ slum clusters cannot be needled any longer. As long as the city is grouped into middle and upper class colonies and gated settlements on one hand and slum dwellers huddled in shanties and makeshift settlements on the other, the latter are only going to be viewed as part of the problem and not as productive, enterprising citizens having the right to access basic services in the city.

In the summer of 2007 when we went to the Janta Mazdoor Colony in East Delhi, we found that in almost every other household, adults and children lay limp and helpless with Dengue. Next to their homes, lay heaps of rotting garbage from which emanated the most putrid stench. From this harrowing experience emerged Kausalya, a community leader and founder-member of Mahila Pragati Manch, a community-based organization (CBO), who has been voicing and struggling tirelessly for basic sanitation services in these clusters. This CBO had knocked at every decision-makers’ door. They felt strongly that this was an issue that could galvanise genuine support only when the powers that matter experience and feel the pain and suffering that women, children, elderly, and the terminally ill were going through; so they shot a video, wrote petition after petition, posted it in every grievance outlet that was open and once they caught the attention of the people in authority, they not only presented their case but also sensitised them.

This presentation will focus on the experience of the CBOs in leveraging sanitation services for the community by bringing focus to the issue and challenges in accessing these basic services, and in doing so how they also shape key processes, debate and deliberate endlessly on the possible solutions and, most importantly, redefine activism on sanitation with different models of intervention.

Akhila Sivadas is a founder member of Centre For Advocacy and Research (CFAR), she brings with her rich and varied experience as a researcher and communication expert on issues related to gender and development and its impact on the lives of marginal communities. Under her stewardship CFAR has grown from a 4-member team to a full fledge team that is working on projects across various states on issues ranging from women and child rights to HIV/AIDS and the urban poor and other marginalised communities. She has been actively involved in a seven-city project to empower urban poor communities and improve access to basic services for marginal and at-risk communities living in highly vulnerable and underserved habitats. To achieve this, she has been facilitating the formation of User Forums led by women and girls and by engaging with governments and municipalities in the three cities of Delhi, Kolkata and Jaipur to improve the community's access to sanitation services.

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CORP Seminar Series

This is the 9th in a series of the Community of Research and Practice (CORP) seminar planned by the Scaling City Institution for India: Sanitation (SCI-FI: Sanitation) initiative. This seminar series aims to provide a platform for discussing the experiences of the researchers and practitioners on urban sanitation. It will help strengthen the understanding of the challenges and opportunities in urban sanitation by promoting evidence-based knowledge in the sector. The space seeks to initiate discussion by sharing experiences; lessons learned from successes and failures; alternative models of sanitation technologies and service delivery models; and studies of best practices. Through these discussions, the sanitation initiative intends to build a stronger evidence base for developing policies, programmes and implementation of plans for achieving sanitized cities.