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Celebrating International Women’s Day, 2019

The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), Bhubaneswar, observed International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019, by celebrating the achievements of women champions who have brought significant changes in their own lives, their family and the community, by establishing and promoting gender justice norms in their action. Speaking about this Jyoshna Sahoo, CFAR stated “Women’s day should not be celebrated only for one day rather it’s a process of everyday life. The day is celebrated to acknowledge the achievements of women in different spectrum i.e. social, economic, political etc. but it only can be achieved if we consider them as equal. And equality does not come suddenly, it’s a life cycle approach. Each person has a role to play to bring equality in society and it starts from our family. for example; if we brought up our children with equal knowledge, work division and  behavior then probably down the year they behave respecting to each other Gender balance can only come once we promote equality and men need to be involved in this process”.

At an event organized at Buddha Temple where more than 150 women and men participated, women from the community shared their heroic acts of breaking away from the bondage of inequitable traditions.

One woman of the community said she is taking care of her old parents abandoned by her brother, while another said she is creating awareness about sex determination and elimination of the girl child. Many said they raised their voice against violence against woman and some others said they fought for their right to property. “After going through a torturous phase in my married life, I broke all ties and am now staying with my parents and working for the development of the community,” said Manjulata Dalei, a community worker.

As this year’s theme of International Women’s Day was #BalanceForBetter; all participants spoke on a case in point that brings balance in the society and promotes equality between men and women. Mihir Mohanty, Program Manager, Swabhiman, said: “The hearing and visually impaired women cannot voice their opinion against domestic violence and they become a victim of sexual harassment too. We need to create awareness among people about the equal rights of women with disabilities.”

Speaking on the occasion, Snehanjali Mohanty, Member, State Commission for Women said: “Both men and women are important in a balanced society. Respect for each other needs to be encouraged and propagated so that our next generation learns from us.”

“Equal work division needs to be promoted and the practice of work division at home based on the gender of the child has to be stopped by parents,” said Pramod Ku. Prusty, Deputy Commissioner BMC. Speaking on the same lines social activists Sri Som also said that the work division between men and women based on the stereotyped gender roles should be condemned. He said the government is also taking various initiatives to bring women into mainstream and priority is being given to women beneficiaries in ration card, gas connection, IHHL subsidy, to cite a few.

Goutam Arya Bhusan of Taru Leading Age said: Each day should be celebrated as Women’s Day. “Women have the courage, patience and the capability of doing everything.” Rajalaxmi Dash, Member, Child Welfare Committee also had a similar view and said the process of strengthening women’s voice should continue and it should not be a one-day event. 

Meera Parida, President, Sakha; Bharati Chakra, State Head, HelpAge India; Usha Rani Behera of Bharatiya Gyana Vigyana Samiti (BJVS); and Debasmita Pattanayak of Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) were also present on the occasion.

World Water Day 2019

Water for All; Leaving No One Behind

Men, women, transgender, single women, people with disabilities, adolescent girls and the elderly gathered in large numbers at the Vani Vihar Kinner (transgender) Basti to observe World Water Day 2019.  Based on this year’s theme “Leaving No One Behind”, they discussed and deliberated on measures to be taken to tackle water crisis faced by the urban poor and create awareness about water conservation. 

CFAR organized the meet in collaboration with Swabhiman, HelpAge India, Sakha, RTI and supported by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or DFAT, Australia and Water for Women Fund on the eve of World Water Day, March 21. Addressing the meet, Meera Parida, President of Sakha, transgender CBO and Mihir Mohanty, Program Manager, Swabhiman, NGO of persons with disabilities emphasized the need for inclusive sanitation

 Lopamudra Panda, WaSH Expert, PR Department? said “Everyone has to use water judiciously so that we can save water for our future.” Lalit Badhai, Project Manager, Piramal Sarvajal announced: “Piramal is soon going to install water ATMs in 10 slums. We will try to include the settlements having severe drinking water stress,” he said.

“We had to carry water in trolley from nearby settlements for drinking purpose. Thanks to Piramal and the Single Window facilitated by CFAR for installing water ATM near our basti, now we are getting pure water for drinking,” said transgender leader Madhuri Maa.  She appealed Piramal to increase the quantity of water to 20 litres per card from 10 litres.

“Water is basic necessity of all, but still many people in urban and rural pocket are deprived of getting pure drinking water. In urban slums, though people are getting water supply but the quality of water is not up to mark. Also the marginalized group i.e. women, PWDs, elderly and adolescent girls face difficulty in getting water if it’s not available nearby. Also excluded groups i.e. SC & ST often face discrimination in accessing water. So, we should work towards inclusive approach to guarantee that where everyone gets the minimum service for their healthy life”, Samir Dash, CFAR

Prior to the event, community representatives and Community Management Committee members were asked to write slogans on water, and a collage of all the slogans was displayed. The best slogan award that went to Pramodini Moharana from Basti Bikas Parisar captured the feelings of the community by declaring “Jeu Jala Lagi Jiba Jagata,Taku Na Kariba Bisakta” or  “Water is the  Cause of Existence of all Beings, It cannot be  made into Poison”

Receiving the award, she said, “There is no scarcity of water in our settlement but the quality is not good. So, if we can get water ATM facility for drinking purpose, then we will feel hugely relieved.”

The meet ended with all participants taking an oath to save water and mobilise at least five people for the same.

Samajik Sahayata Kendra: A New Beginning in Kolkata

Going back to 2017; potholed roads, open overflowing drains, waste piled and strewn all over—this slum at Ward No 31 of North Dum Dum Municipality (NDDM) in Kolkata, was like any other slum of the city. Though located only 4-5 km away from the administrative office of the urban local body, people here did not have access to clean drinking water and were dependent on makeshift toilets.

CFAR felt it was high time to take its intervention to the slum dwellers here who knew very little about the government welfare programs. About 34% of them worked in the unorganized sector (rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors) short of job security and social security cover.

The urban sanitation intervention started in November 2017 and CFAR began discussions with self help groups (SHGs) and Mahila Arogya Samitis (MAS) members with the aim to build strong grassroots level institutions for the marginalized here. The challenge was to make them internalize the link between poor sanitation and ill health and its consequences on family economy. The first step in this process was to train them on sanitation issues, unleash their capabilities to create mass awareness on proper sanitation, and build their capacity to self-organize and form their own collective.

The intervention started with awareness programmes with the 75 existing SHGs and five MAS. Workshops and meetings focusing on sanitation and 74th amendment (Nagarpalika Act) were held. In due course six community management committees (CMC) were formed with 40 members who were also members of Area Level Federation (ALF) and MAS.

These trained community representatives started doing an exercise that educated the community about the basic services that they are entitled to and helped them to track what was missing or gaps in service. They involved SHG members and community people. Through this exercise they identified nine short-term and mid-term issues like waste collection at door steps, mobilizing households to segregate waste at source, de-clogging of drains, and construction of short length drains and paving lanes.

They also began interactions with the Councillor and reached out to the ward committee members to take responsibility and address the infrastructure related problems faced by the community. Along with this, they started organizing campaigns, cleanliness drives and meetings to mobilize the entire community. Seeing the persistent efforts of CMC members, the Ward Committee managed to convince the Councillor to address the problems faced by the community.

Eight concrete roads measuring 575mt and five drains measuring 250mt were laid benefitting 332 households and a population of 1,660. The local administration also included three CMCs in their Ward Committee and accredited 40 CMC members.

CFAR organized an exposure visit of six CMC members to Jaipur to understand the Single Window system (a CFAR intervention) there. The exposure visit was an eye opener for the CMC members. They shared their learning’s with other CMCs, Councillor and Ward Committee and immediately took a resolution to start a similar Single Window Centre.

In a joint meeting of CMC, Ward Committee, National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) and CFAR, a decision was taken to set up a Single Window to link the community with sanitation services and social entitlements as well as train the community representatives to manage the Single Window. The Samajik Sahayata Kendra thus came into being and was inaugurated at the Jatindra Nath Community Hall on February 6, 2019.  

The Samajik Sahayata Kendra will serve as resource centre for CMC, MAS, NULM, CMC and STF, where livelihood training will be also provided. The Samajik Sahayata Kendra will also organize health camps and provide necessary services like ambulance, hearse and water tank, besides linking up community with sanitation and social security schemes

CFAR highlights community-led sanitation models at FICCI Summit

At the FICCI Aditya Birla CSR Centre for Excellence Summit and Awards 2019, CFAR made an attempt to showcase the efforts made to “Sustain Sanitation Services & Infrastructure through Community Engagement”. The innovative community-led sanitation models including entrepreneurial initiatives of women and men were highlighted during the Summit organised on February 20-21 at the India Habitat Center.

CFAR facilitated the interactions of representatives from CRY, ETASHA, ACTED, FINISH Society, Isard, MBERG Foundation, Adobe Systems India Private Limited with members of Community based organisations, Community Management Committee, Single Window Forum, Masons and Male Forums from Delhi and Jaipur. They explored opportunities for partnerships with the community to scale up the interventions at the city level.

“We hope that this event enables the community of practitioners from masons to community educators to play a strong role in shaping safe sanitation technology and they are given an opportunity to become members of the National Association that the Ministry of Urban Development is planning to set up,” said Ganesh and Anita, from Madanpur Khadar who are spearheading the formation of an city-level Association of Septic-tank Builders and Owners.

Speaking during a session that focused on catalytic interventions, Sonal Dheer, Adobe Systems India Private Ltd, said: “Under CSR we are looking for community engagement partners for creating sustainble models. The private sector can achieve great heights only with support from the community. Representatives from Adani Group, Amazon, TATA Chemicals Ltd and Nuvoco Vistas Corp Ltd also spoke on enterprise development solutions for empowerment of vulnerable communities.

Lauding CFAR’s Single Window Model set up in Jaipur to strengthen sanitation service chain in several wards of Jaipur Municipal Corporation, Prashant Pal, SQS Simply Solutions, said they would want to adapt the model to train the upcoming women enterprenuers from rural areas.

Joohi Khusbu of FINISH Society also said: The intervention in Delhi enabling community management of toilets has been a great achievement. “We would replicate it in our project area.” 

CFAR’s work on fecal sludge management is helping households construct proper septic tanks and twin pits for their toilets

Part of CFAR’s work on fecal sludge management is helping households construct proper septic tanks and twin pits for their toilets, in cases where they do not have access to a sewerage network. We facilitate knowledge transfer to both household owners and masons and provide support at the time of construction. As a result, the households are able to avoid open discharge of feces into the local environment and prevent diseases caused by fecal bacteria. Our overall aim is harm reduction in the community thanks to better sanitation-related practices. Below are two examples of our work on septic tanks with community members in Madanpur Khadar, Delhi.

Story of Sunil Story of Ganesh



Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day observed globally

The Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day, May 28 observed globally, is now providing both a dedicated day and a platform for women and girls from less privileged communities and from across cities to break the deep-seated silence, voice their views and take on all the myths and taboos associated with menstruation

This is best evidenced by Gulashfa and Pratima from Kalyanpuri; they are dead serious about this issue and not only have a view about it but are clear that all others should think about menstruation in a rational manner and normalize it.

With MHM day being observed since 2014, we have been witnessing a sea change in people’s attitude to this issue. Women and girls no longer hesitate to dry their cloth pads in the sun, rather than in dark cowsheds as they had long done, and when they are asked to attended training sessions, they do so without hesitation. Adolescent MHM facilitators are meanwhile advocating for a convergent policy and decisive programmatic framework; with a nodal agency and desks in multiple agencies and government departments; for taking forward initiatives that promote safe and healthy MHM. More recently, the campaign has also been highlighting environmental concerns, especially in poor urban settlements, by asking women and girls to use reusable cloth napkins for both better personal hygiene and reducing menstrual waste.

The credit for this remarkable change in attitudes goes to the multi faceted campaign that has been undertaken by MHM facilitators, women’s forum members, master trainers and partner NGOs to: break the all pervading silence on this issue by openly questioning the rigid traditions and narrow narratives that have long surrounded it. While doing so they have also been strengthening the MHM value chain by providing information on personal hygiene, healthy nutrition, the choice and use of safe products and proper disposal. They have even been engaging with young men and boys because they feel it is imperative for men and boys to understand the issues surrounding MH and support them. A welcome offshoot of these interactions is that many young men and boys have expressed a desire to learn how to stitch napkins.

Various mediums from trainings to street plays are also being initiated to take the campaign forward. For instance, adolescent MHM facilitators, accredited by DM South West Delhi, are reaching out to peers and women in surrounding settlements; advocating with other NGOs and CBOs and working with rag pickers to strengthen their understanding of menstrual waste and how its harmful effects can be reduced by using compostable napkins. And trainings are also being conducted for ICDS workers in North East Delhi on orientation and stitching cloth pads, following a directive by the Women and Child Department.

Observance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day 2018:   

This year, CFAR staffers in various states,  organized a range of activities from consultations and round table discussions on MHM related themes to cultural programmes, trainings in stitching napkins to street plays in th five cities of Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata. More importantly, these events brought together audiences that included senior bureaucrats from the ministries of health, education and environment, partner NGOs, members of women’s forums, men and youth from the community and school children.     

In Delhi, over 200 adolescents, women and men attended on event based on the theme of “Safe MHM-from Behavior to Disposal”, in Block 18 Kalyanpuri; during which members of adolescent forums spoke on various facets of menstrual health and hygiene, from the need to work with men and boys to strengthening efforts to reduce menstrual waste. A street play, “Yeh meri nahi akeli, mahawari har aurat ki saheli”, which highlighted menstruation as a natural process that is important for all women and girls was performed. Four hundred (400) free reusable cloth napkins made by master trainers were also distributed.    

In Rajasthan various events were held in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota including discussions on menstrual hygiene and management and a two day training of members of adolescent forums on stitching reusable sanitary napkins.   

Bhubaneswar meanwhile was the venue of a daylong consultation on the theme of “Let’s Naturalize Menstruation” with participants including more than150 adolescent girls from 20 neighboring settlements; as also a round table discussion on the need to find – environment safe and affordable solutions for menstrual waste management. The principle recommendation that emerged from the discussion was that uniform standards and guidelines be put in place for currently available menstrual waste management technologies, like composting pits and eco-friendly incinerators, so that they meet the standards set by the State Pollution Control Board.

In Kolkata the day began with a dance performance titled “Beauty of Red” followed by a discussion on the theme of “No More Limits: Empowering women and girls through good menstrual hygiene”, in collaboration with Rajpur Sonapur Municipality. The focus of the event was on the need to make menstruation a non-issue and create platforms to promote good menstrual hygiene for women and girls.