Sanitation facilities, especially for women, continue to be an urgent need even as initiatives like the Mission Swachh Bharat continue to maintain momentum. Biological flaws, cultural norms and social taboos intersect with regard to the public sanitation needs of women in India.
The lack of basic facilities like clean toilets makes it extremely difficult for women to carry out their daily chores. sanitation in safety and with dignity. It also leads to open defecation, an unhygienic practice that compromises health and well-being. It also makes women vulnerable to sexual harassment since most women choose to go out and relieve themselves after sunset. The risk of being attacked by animals is also no less. The lack of sanitation facilities is therefore a social and cultural problem. charged for women in India.
Open defecation and unsanitary latrines: Women are exposed to physical and mental trauma
While it’s good to start by understanding that public sanitation facilities are far below the average needed, the ramifications of open defecation are far greater than you might think. There is absolutely no doubt that defecating in unsanitary places can cause Urinary tract infection (UTI) in women, whether in the toilet or in the field.
This usually leads women to three answers – either deliberately ignoring the horrible state of the toilet and using it, finding an open space and defecating there, or stopping drinking enough water and controlling the urge to pee. All of these coping mechanisms lead to the same result – UTI.
Professor Vinod Jain of King George Medical University observed that 80 percent of women in India have experienced UTI at least once in their lifetime. There is also a unique model in urban and semi-urban areas where many women get infections and discomfort from repeated cases of standing while urinating and trying to speed up the process while using open spaces, to hide when vehicles and people pass by frequently.
Studies have shown that defecating under such circumstances harms women physically and psychologically. The women shared their experiences of fear which proves that open defecation is not a choice but is inevitable in most cases. Lack of hygienic sanitation has a very close relationship with the overall health of women as it can cause diarrhea, undernutrition, deterioration of immunity and others. soil borne infections.
On the other hand, students and parents unanimously explained that the right to education is compromised due to poor sanitation facilities. Parents are reluctant to send their daughters to schools without toilets. Even if they do, the girls don’t use the toilet because of their shame.
It also means girls are forced to skip school and stay home during their period. When correct sanitation equipment is provided, student attendance and retention rates have been more stable.
The sanitation problem arises not only from the lack of gender-sensitive policy development, but also from poor implementation. In states like Rajasthan, 80 percent of households do not have a toilet according to the 2011 census. In India, poor sanitation and inaccessibility to safe drinking water are two of the most common health risks that cause deaths.
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In addition, only 40% of the Indian population has access to improved sanitation. This means that having a clean toilet to meet your basic needs is a privilege in India and even there women have very selective access. Domestic workers and slum dwellers, from their experiences with public toilets, explained how toilets are never kept clean and become the breeding ground for all kinds of infections.
Most toilets become unusable in a short time as the hoses get clogged and the cisterns dry up. Now is not the time to come up with more initiatives to fill in the gaps. On the contrary, what we need is a reorientation of the existing regimes that fill in the gaps and the problems that persist.
Include women in sanitation initiatives
We can see that the initiatives under women’s leadership achieve better results when it comes to providing sanitation facilities. This is because women understand the health needs of other women and are more sensitive to sanitation issues from experience. They ensure better quality and durability. Their decisions are also very different from those of their male counterparts.
In Rajasthan, women have had the power to decide the location of domestic toilets. Likewise, in the Total sanitation campaign (TSC) in Odisha, committees made up of adolescent girls were formed to promote toilet use and hygienic sanitation practices. In Kerala, Kudumbashree (an all-female organization) also played an important role in reviving the water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector hit hard by the 2018 floods. All of these women-led initiatives have improved the remediation scenarios in their respective states.
The economic and social regression we face due to the lack of adequate sanitation facilities is far beyond our imagination. The loss incurred due to poor sanitation was set at $ 58 billion in 2006 by the world Bank which would certainly have doubled by now. Besides the health problem that it is, it is also a violation of the fundamental right to life and a clear failure to achieve the sixth sustainable development goal – “drinking water and sanitation for all”.
Sanitation improvement plans in India should be structured, developed and supported in a way that is feasible for women considering that they are at greater risk. This would mean including more women at the planning, design and political decision-making levels.
It is not the burden of women to hide while urinating or to be forced to lead sanitation campaigns because they lack the political and administrative system. It is a collective responsibility of the State, of society as well as of citizens to ensure decent and clean sanitation for all, in particular for women.
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