By Randa El-Tahawy
A Bollywood movie tackles India’s Open Defecation crisis through the story of a man winning his bride’s love with a toilet.
“Toilet Aik Prem Katha (Toilet a Love Story)”, which stars popular actor Akshay Kumar, was released on August 11 in India and is already among the most successful Hindi movies of 2017.
Inspired by the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission, or SBM, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a clean India by 2019, it tells the story of a bride refusing to get married unless her fiancé installs a bathroom in their house.
With nearly half of India’s 1.3 billion people defecating in the open and 10% of under-5 child deaths caused by diarrhoea in India, the lack of adequate access to sanitation and hygiene also puts women and girls at risk of sexual assault.
“It is a really good movie based on collective behaviour change and women empowerment,” says WSSCC’s India coordinator Vinod Mishra, based in Delhi.
Kamini Prakash, WSSCC Technical Officer for Equality and Non-Discrimination commended the gender dimension displayed.
“The female protagonist is a strong character that stands up to her husband and father-in-law and fights for the sanitation rights of the village women. The film also critiqued the dominant notion of masculinity,” she says.
A court has recently granted a woman a divorce over the absence of a home toilet, that could perhaps be tied to the film’s success.
But the movie also faces some criticism over its portrayal of the problem.
“The film does not have any input on diseases and stunting. Sanitation has more complex issues,” says Mishra.
Prakash adds that even the gender messaging gets confusing at times.
“The key message seems to have been – “no toilet, no bride” – which to my mind again is a mistake, if we want to achieve open defecation free status. Are toilets just for women? Does this mean that it’s ok for men to continue going out to defecate?”
WSSCC has nearly 600 individual members in India and the Council actively supports SBM. Through the Global Sanitation Fund, 1.38 million people have been enabled to live in Open Defecation Free environments and 2.91 million people were supported with improved toilets in the states of Assam, Bihar and Jharkhand.
As part of its Leave No One Behind approach to address equality and inclusion in sanitation and hygiene, WSSCC hosted in 2016 the Sanitation Action Summit in Mumbai, fostering a dialogue on ways to achieve a clean India for all.
By Raza Naqvi A webinar to exchange plans and methodologies to protect vulnerable groups from COVID-19 was hosted in May by the India Support Unit of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in partnership with the UK’s Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Sri Lanka’s Regional Sanitation Centre (RSC), and the Freshwater Action Network […]
By Raza Naqvi DELHI, India – In a show of interfaith unity, spiritual leaders from all religious denominations across India came together to address a special webinar on fighting the novel Coronavirus, organised by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), in partnership with WSSCC and with technical support from UNICEF. Faith-based leaders presented how their […]
By Raza Naqvi, DELHI, India – A robot called Pepe will soon encourage schoolchildren to wash their hands. The robot will help kids adopt better practices by talking about hygiene and sanitation and developers say they will be useful especially when pandemics like COVID-19 requires confinement and social distancing. Video courtesy: Ammachi Labs According to […]
By Raza Naqvi THANE, India – It all started with a routine departmental medical camp. Without the camp, the issue of vaginal fungal infections would never have come to the attention of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Dr Priyanka Narnaware, who immediately committed to act on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). Concerned about the health of […]