New Delhi, India – 30 October 2015 – Today, the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) announced that it will amplify its support to the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the Government of India’s (GOI) programme to achieve a Clean India by 2019, by establishing an in country India Support Unit and bolstering its work linked to the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF). The Government has welcomed these moves, which enhance WSSCC’s normative and implementation work to improve access and use, equality, knowledge and collaboration in sanitation and hygiene. WSSCC has appointed Mr. Vinod Mishra, previously the organization’s volunteer National Coordinator, to the position of National Officer in a new India Support Unit (ISU). Mr. Mishra will lead a WSSCC team of three professionals, including Ms. Kamini Prakash, an Equality and Non Discrimination Officer, and Ms. Sanchita Ghosh, a Knowledge and Learning Officer, based in Delhi. The unit will coordinate WSSCC support to SBM on policy and monitoring guidelines, capacity building and rapid action learning.
In addition, WSSCC’s work through the Global Sanitation Fund-supported programme managed by NRMC India Private Ltd. will include four additional elements: extension of field operations in the States of Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam; support to the Namami Ganga Mission (NGM) within SBM; support to Bihar State on a “District Approach” to collective behaviour change; and facilitation of peer exchanges with neighbouring States in Northern India. Collectively, these additions respond to the Government’s aims to expand and share through successful sanitation programming.
These additional elements build on an already successful GSF programme which, since 2010, has been instrumental working in those three States with high open defecation rates, to establish the modalities for implementing collective behaviour change at scale, an essential pathway to the practical realization of SBM. To date, WSSCC has facilitated open defecation free status for Gram Panchayats in Jharkhand and Bihar. As of July 2015, the GSF programme has empowered 551,000 people to live in open defecation free villages, and 1.4 million people to gain access to improved sanitation in India. “The Swachh Bharat Mission is a call to action for finally ending the practice of open defecation and ensuring equal access to sanitation and hygiene,” says Dr. Chris W. Williams, Executive Director of WSSCC. “We aim to answer that call and work together to solve the serious and deep rooted sanitation challenges for the well-being, prosperity and very survival of India’s 1.2 billion citizens.”
Since 1990, WSSCC has worked closely through its individual members, National Coordinators and partners to support improved access to sanitation and hygiene. In the past five years alone, the Council held the first Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in Mumbai, facilitated innovative sanitation programming through the GSF, and worked with the Government of India and States to transform sanitation policy and practice to include safe menstrual hygiene management with dignity, responding to the demands of hundreds of millions of women whose monthly periods were hitherto linked to pollution and impurity and therefore shame and indignity.
More recently, along with other partners, WSSCC contributed to the design of the SBM to include equity, innovation, rapid action and learning, and sustainability aspects before it was launched in October 2014. In 2015, GOI called upon WSSCC to organize the first ever national workshop to define the verification of open defecation free (ODF) status in India, followed by the first national sharing of innovations, best practices and failures in sanitation and hygiene1. On equity, the Indian example and experience has been leveraged systematically to forge partnerships, innovations and guidelines wider in South Asia and in Africa. Inclusive WASH has also been clearly articulated in regional declarations and hygiene and sanitation proposals for the Sustainable Development Goals. “In a country where pervasive caste and gender inequalities threaten life itself, over 300 million women and girls in India try to squat in a sari, while holding a cup of water to cleanse themselves and keeping an eye out for molesters. Imagine how much more complex and impossible this becomes every month during a woman’s menstrual period!” says Ms. Archana Patkar, Programme Manager, WSSCC. “It is time for the entire development community to unite behind this cause.”
Added Mr. Mishra: “The deleterious impacts of poor sanitation and hygiene on health, productivity and well-being extend well beyond India, which is responsible for 60% of the world’s total open defecation, and is nothing short of a global emergency. WSSCC’s amplified engagement will therefore lead to successes and solutions which will not only tackle the emergency here, but help elsewhere.”
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