Policy Briefs & Reports

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Urban Wash

Anju Dwivedi, Abhinav Kumar

April 4, 2023

India has made considerable physical progress towards infrastructure creation under various national water and sanitation programme, yet the pandemic in 2020 further deepened WASH inequities for the urban poor. Evidence on the pandemic has demonstrated that community-based organisations (CBOs) played a pivotal role in facilitating on- ground during the pandemic to mitigate shocks to urban poor. They were instrumental in providing support in accessing food, health, and WASH services to urban poor by partnering with city governments. In Odisha, Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Slum Dwellers Associations (SDAs) are emerging as part of the fourth tier of governance structure that allows urban poor to actively participate in civic work.

Against this background, participatory research was undertaken in Dhenkanal in Odisha to understand the challenges most marginalised groups face in accessing WASH services in poor urban settlements; explore the role of the fourth tier of governance in ensuring inclusive, equitable and sustainable access to WASH services to the urban poor, especially to the marginalised groups in unserved and underserved urban poor settlements during the pandemic; identify the underlying principles and factors for the deepening of engagement of community- based organisations (CBOs), in the framework of the fourth tier of governance, such that urban poor-led community based groups can ensure inclusive and sustainable WASH services in a poor urban settlement.

The study explores various opportunities, such as enabling policy and programmatic focus and challenges, such as weak capacities and deep-rooted exclusionary processes CBOs face to support marginalised groups accessing WASH services. Finally, the study analyses the concept of fourthtier governance in the context of SHGs and SDAs in Odisha.

The study recommends defining the framework for the fourth tier of governance with clear roles and responsibilities of different CBOs, strengthening CBOs to become anchors for disseminating information on programmes and schemes to the poor and marginalised who often get excluded from programmes because of lack of knowledge. The study underpins the need for institution-building and improving the financial health of these institutions.