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.

Understanding the linkages meant creating a “real demand” for these amenities. CFAR organised awareness camps on the importance of hand washing, proper use of toilets, general cleanliness, menstrual hygiene and the need to turn these into practice and habit, in order to maintain good health. Surveys in the intervention areas in Delhi, Kolkata and Rajasthan had revealed an alarming level of ignorance on these issues. Consequently, disease and morbidity were rampant. For instance, in one of the intervention areas in Kolkata, a large majority of women were found to suffer from reproductive and urinary tract infection, a result of bathing in ponds even during menstruation.

Changing ageold practice...

Be it washing utensils after meals or washing clothes or bathing --- the pond seemed enough to get by for the residents of this settlement in Rajpur-Sonarpur. People even threw their household garbage around it. It did not seem odd to anyone and little did they realise what harm the contaminated water was doing to their health. Did CFAR’s intervention make a difference? Was the po...

In terms of overall cleanliness and removal of household waste, there has been significant behaviour change among the women: the communities are either doing it themselves, or sharing the tasks amongst themselves by dividing responsibilities. The DelhiUrban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) and other local authorities have taken note of this and are strategizing to involve CFAR in their new venture of Adarsh Bastis (Model Slums). — IHD End-Term Evaluation Report

The authorities as well as the people residing in these slums have come to recognize the crucial fact of involvement. Taps can be laid, garbage bins can be provided, toilet complexes can be built but most importantly, the communities had to take charge.