India’s WASH insurance policies unduly burden girls; have to construct delicate ecosystem, communication for social change


Involving girls in designing, planning, and implementing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes helps lower faculty dropout charges, enhance literacy charges and well being outcomes

The COVID-19 pandemic has made hand hygiene essential for illness prevention. This has led to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) gaining higher significance in households, faculties, well being amenities, and communities.

It is clear that insufficient WASH providers disproportionately burden women, and therefore, coverage framing and implementation should recognise the experiences, wants, and limitations confronted by girls and women.

Figure 1: Potential Consequences of Not Having Toilets for Women

Source: Economic Survey 2016-17

Although India doesn’t have an umbrella WASH coverage, a number of insurance policies for improved sanitation, clear ingesting water, and menstrual hygiene, every specializing in completely different elements of WASH have been undertaken.

We apply the ‘Gender Responsive Assessment Scale’ developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to judge these insurance policies and programmes on a five-point scale: Gender-unequal: 1, Gender-blind: 2, Gender-sensitive: 3, Gender-specific: 4 and Gender-transformative

Figure 2: Gender responsiveness of WASH insurance policies

Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

The Government of India restructured and subsumed the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) into the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) in 2019. The coverage goals to make sure reasonably priced and satisfactory ingesting water provide by way of Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) to each rural family by 2024.

The JJM guidelines released in 2019 word that the supply of faucet water connections to households will relieve girls and women of the battle of strolling miles to fetch water, assuaging ‘time poverty’*.

It emphasises girls’s position in main and taking part in JJM actions, particularly on the village degree. Women are required to represent 50 % of the Village Water and Sanitation Committees. The ‘Swajal’ programme, below JJM, includes a Women’s Development Initiative (WDI) designed to upskill them, enhance their income-earning capabilities, and join them to the market, by way of assist from Support Organisations.

About 19 % of the agricultural inhabitants had been offered FHTCs by 31 December, 2019.


However, habitations with lower than 25 % of the inhabitants getting access to protected ingesting water had been granted lower priority in coverage than different classes. This signifies that water-stressed areas proceed to undergo, and so do girls and women in these areas.

Nevertheless, the JJM presents a singular alternative to undertake gender-transformation in rural India by way of selling girls’s management.

Atal Bhujal Yojana

The gender strategy for the policy tracks the participation of ladies within the scheme. It requires 33 percent women members in Water Use Associations (WUA) on the Gram Panchayat degree to permit holistic participation of ladies in water budgeting, water safety planning, and monitoring implementation progress.

Apart from offering coaching, gender points are additionally addressed in conferences of WUAs. Women members of Self-help Groups (SHGs) are additionally required to represent a considerable variety of Water Management Committees (WMC).

Although the on-ground gender transformation is but to pan out, proof signifies that ladies’s participation in useful resource administration improves their bargaining power and management expertise whereas upholding extra environment friendly water use.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Gramin (SBM-G)

Through its ‘Gender Guidelines’, the mission recognises the significance of satisfactory sanitation and menstrual hygiene administration for ladies’s well being, privateness, security, and socio-economic outcomes. It requires the energetic participation of ladies not solely in campaigns but additionally as leaders constituting 50 % of the Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSC).

The Information, Education, Communication (IEC) campaigns are focused not solely in the direction of girls but additionally males, to problem gender stereotypes. It additionally encourages girls to work as masons to assist in bathroom development, adolescent women to boost consciousness of menstrual well being administration of their communities, and males to take part in sustaining bathrooms.

The programme has additionally included skilled foot troopers, or swachhagrahis, principally girls, from self-help teams, ASHA staff, and different community-based organisations who encourage improved sanitation practices of their villages. In Jharkhand, 1.5 million women-led a hygiene marketing campaign and constructed 1.7 lakh toilets in lower than a month.

Although India was declared open-defecation-free (ODF) in 2019, a number of reviews point out the persistence of open-defecation in areas labelled ODF, defunct bathrooms, and discrepancies between the SBM administrative information and National Sample Survey information. There have additionally been reviews of non-payment of wages to swachhagrahis. If such coverage implementation gaps will not be bridged, areas with poor sanitation and lack of satisfactory bathrooms will proceed to fail their girls.

Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM)

The MHM guidelines, issued by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, present a well-defined MHM framework that includes IEC initiatives, higher WASH infrastructure, availability and protected disposal of menstrual absorbents, and participation of communities and faculties, to make adolescent women able to persevering with their schooling and ending the taboo round menstruation. It additionally brings collectively varied ministries to collectively act in the direction of the trigger.

However, MHM continues to be recognised as one of many least prioritised elements of SBM-G. On the Lok Sabha query of allocation of funds to the MHM element of SBM-G, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation answered that they do not release component-wise funds and shouldn’t have any monitoring mechanism in place.

Ground reviews present that data of correct menstrual hygiene practices continues to be missing. Girls have entry to sanitary napkins so long as they’re supplied with the identical from the college and later cease utilizing them due to non-affordability or non-availability.

Even although ASHA staff proceed to boost consciousness, there are instances the place 80 percent of women and girls in villages proceed to apply unhygienic MHM.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-U)

Although the SBM-Gramin has tried to be gender-transformative whereas recognising the burden of poor sanitation on girls, SBM-U appears to have left that out fully. The solely gender delicate level included in SBM-U’s guidelines is that “adequate provision for separate toilets and bathing facilities for men, women and the physically-disabled” have to be ensured.

This could be problematic. In 2018, 35.2 percent of India’s urban population was living in slums, and with the ever-increasing city inhabitants, that is solely going to rise. Urban slums with poor sanitation, privateness, and infrastructure pose a number of challenges for ladies.

Since women and girls principally use neighborhood bathroom complexes or public bathrooms — usually positioned on the outskirts of the slum inside 1-2 km radius — they’re liable to harassment and violence. These privateness and security considerations are magnified within the evenings and late nights.

The paucity of fresh and separate bathrooms for ladies within the city working panorama can discourage and restrict women from becoming a member of the workforce, along with a number of elements that already hinder their labour power participation. The bathrooms are additionally poorly maintained and lack of water connection and correct waste disposal strategies. To organize water for family use, girls and women need to stand in long queues to gather it from the water tankers.

Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan

The Clean India: Clean Schools campaign below SBM has recognised separate bathrooms and clear water in faculties is essential to a woman’s schooling. It gives for barrier-free entry to wash bathrooms and clear ingesting water for all youngsters.

The programme additionally contains schooling on menstrual hygiene administration, sanitation, and handwashing. However, whereas there have been important enhancements in sanitation and clear water availability submit this marketing campaign, some issues stay.

In 15 percent of schools assessed by WaterAid, ingesting water was not protected, and half of them lacked a water storage facility. While 95 % of the faculties had useful bathrooms, these bathrooms had been locked in 39 % faculties and a few college students had been nonetheless defecating within the open. A 3rd of the faculties had no operating water for handwashing, and solely about 20 % of colleges assessed had “some facility for girls to manage their menses”.

Kayakalp Initiative

Launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to complement the efforts of SBM, this initiative goals to advertise cleanliness, hygiene and an infection management in public well being amenities, encourages common efficiency evaluation, and develops sustainable cleanliness practices to enhance well being outcomes.

The scheme additionally recognises and awards the best-performing public well being amenities. However, though the rules point out bathrooms and labour rooms’ cleansing, the gender dimension will not be thought of.

Policy suggestions

Evidence from across the globe finds that involving girls in designing, planning, and implementing WASH programmes helps in reducing dropout charges from faculty, growing faculty attendance, enhancing literacy charges and well being outcomes, guaranteeing higher privateness and dignity, and lowering baby mortality and the chance of harassment and violence.

Hence, girls’s participation in WASH providers advantages not solely them but additionally their households and whole communities.

1. Integrate current insurance policies right into a single WASH coverage for India

While it’s notable that insurance policies such because the Jal Jeevan Mission and Kayakalp scheme are recognised as being in tandem with the Swachh Bharat Mission, the convergence of those insurance policies below the umbrella of WASH would offer the synergy and holistic implementation that India’s WASH sector wants.

2. Train swachhagrahis for wider communication and guarantee well timed wage funds

The community and attain of swachhagrahis have to be utilised past the essential sanitation and bathroom development considerations. They have to be skilled to propagate gender-sensitive IEC, promote girls’s entry to bathrooms, and construct extra gender-friendly bathrooms, to challenge certain social norms in practice.

It have to be ensured that due wages are paid to them on time as per the swachhagrahi tips.

3. WASH in faculties: Amplify the coverage give attention to Menstrual Hygiene Management

The availability of separate functional toilets for ladies and boys and satisfactory handwashing stations wants to extend. The faculties will need to have satisfactory MHM infrastructure, which incorporates non-public areas, clear water provide, and waste disposal amenities. The school management committees (SMC) should make sure that WASH providers and consciousness are maintained.

The native self-governments and authorities should guarantee girls’s management to remove the taboo round menstruation and gender-inclusive choice making. The use of cheaper and sustainable choices for MHM have to be inspired.

The authorities can incentivise and support grassroots entrepreneurs to scale manufacturing and distribution of their biodegradable menstrual hygiene merchandise, to take care of a secure provide even for last-mile populations.

4. Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) must be delicate in the direction of girls in city slums

It is essential that designers of public bathrooms or neighborhood bathroom complexes are cognisant of things comparable to privateness, hours of availability, distance from the residential areas, design of bathrooms that may influence girls and women, and employ innovation in building gender-sensitive structures. This would require enough initiative from the federal government’s finish.

To guarantee the proper to hygiene and sanitation, licenses for establishing outlets, factories or workspaces have to be issued solely if women-friendly toilets are available, no matter whether or not girls are employed or not. The authorities should pursue city sanitary infrastructure with due rigour and monitor compliance effectively.

5. WASH in well being amenities have to be gender-sensitive

WASH insurance policies in well being amenities should combine the particular wants of ladies and kids, which incorporates protected, hygienic and accessible well being centres and useful bathrooms. The Kayakalp Awards should embrace ‘gender-inclusive infrastructure’ as a metric in assessing well being amenities for his or her well being atmosphere.

Monitoring techniques have to be set as much as track WASH performance of health facilities and its influence on well being outcomes of ladies and women.

6. Develop a ‘Gender Tracking’ system and beneficial ecosystem for change

Even whereas WASH insurance policies are gender-sensitive or gender-transformative of their design and planning, they fail to measure the gendered influence of the coverage. Most proof accessible is anecdotal, and there’s no quantitative information or monitoring to depict the place the coverage stands on bridging the gender hole.

Policies should make use of gender evaluation instruments to develop a framework for such measurement and combine it with the Management Information System (MIS) or cellular apps to trace progress on gendered outcomes.

To create an ecosystem for gender transformation, it is essential for WASH insurance policies to transcend gender sensitivity and tackle the causes of gender inequality and convey forth optimistic modifications within the energy dynamics between ladies and men.

*Time poverty refers back to the lack of time for private recreation or leisure as a consequence of lengthy working hours. In the case of ladies, it signifies the scarcity of time as a consequence of home chores or care actions that take up most of their hours.

The writer is a analysis affiliate at Social & Political Research Foundation (SPRF). Headquartered in New Delhi, SPRF is a younger coverage think-tank looking for to make public coverage analysis holistic and accessible

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