With increased involvement, it became evident to CFAR that there were huge gaps in what the community required and what the government was providing. It wasn’t just that amenities fell far short of the requirement, the “end-user” was indifferent, even ignorant of the adverse impact poor water and sanitation had on their health. Sanitation, or the absence of it, was one big looming but often unstated problem. Setting the agenda for sanitation was one of the key challenges. The end term evaluation of WSH 1 project sums up CFAR’s dilemma — Is sanitation an agenda for the urban poor? If so, who is the driver for sanitation? Who is the face of urban sanitation? In the daily value chain, where does sanitation fit? There was thus a need to enable a process, where each community set its own agenda, and arrived at solutions, specific to their needs.
This was where the community-based organization stepped in. Women and adolescent girls who understood the linkages took on leadership roles to influence their families, neighbours and the neighbourhoods. In fact, many of the successes of WSH 1 are the result of the positive response from the women and girls in the poor settlements. With some handholding from CFAR by way of training programmes and interactions the women learnt how to effectively demand from municipal authorities their basic rights to sanitation and clean water facilities. Women learnt to individually and collectively, file applications and interact with various urban bodies in order to pursue their demands. Stories abound – in Delhi, Kolkata and Jaipur – of how successfully women have complained to municipal authorities to clean drains, maintain community toilets and ensure proper garbage disposal.