GENEVA – As India advances its unprecedented, government-led movement, known as the Swachh Bharat Mission, to progress the ambition of the country being open defecation free, we sat down with Vinod Kumar Mishra, WSSCC India Coordinator, to discuss his views on how to reach the last mile in India and leave no one behind in sanitation and hygiene.
WSSCC: What does “Leaving No One Behind in Sanitation and Hygiene” mean particularly in the context of India?
Vinod Kumar Mishra, WSSCC India Coordinator: In India in 2014, through the Swachh Bharat mission, the prime minister Mr Narendra Modi has started a big mass campaign, you can say the largest collective behaviour change campaign in India and after 5 years we have achieved around 90% – more than 90% – of coverage. But still we have to look at the leave no one behind in India because many poor, vulnerable and marginalized people don’t have access to the safe sanitation. So “Leave No One Behind” will be the question for next five years and government of India is targeting [it] through the ODF Sustainability and ODF Plus programmes to cater, to reach out to the last mile, to solve the problem so that no one is left behind in access to sanitation.
WSSCC: What can WSSCC do to reach the last mile in India?
Vinod Mishra: WSSCC is always focusing on equity and inclusion, focusing on the last mile, and in India equity and inclusion is still a big issue, so we’ll have to focus on the poor and marginalised people and last mile, those who have not still access to the safe sanitation. So, for covering the last mile, we’ll have to work with the national government, with the state government, at the district level, and provide support to show how the implementor can reach out to the last mile. And that example can be scaled-up at the country level. And just to align in India with the government of India we will have to focus more on the last mile, in terms of the advocacy, creating awareness, maybe there would be some policy change, there would be capacity-building support, – so, many ways.
WSSCC: What is the menstrual hygiene landscape in India now? What more can WSSCC do to advance this cause in the country?
Vinod Mishra: Presently we have a lot of issues on the MHM, regarding the taboos, shame, and WSSCC is working on the MHM in India since around 10 years, supporting government of India and development partners to solve the problem around the MHM, because for girls and women to have right to live a life with dignity and safety, certainly we will have to work on the menstrual hygiene management. And we are working with several partners, CSOs, in India. We developed the capacity-building module and are building the capacity in India at the different [levels]: partners, government, and in three states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam – last year we developed state-level training strategy for the MHM.
Menstrual hygiene management is still a big taboo in India, because hardly 20% – 15% of girls are accessing sanitary pads; they are still using the cotton and very unsafe materials. So, to advance the cause, there should be three areas [addressed]: first, breaking the silence around the shame and taboos, because nobody is speaking about the MHM in the family, in the workplace, in the public place – anywhere. That’s one thing. Second is to provide the facilities for the safe menstrual hygiene management, even at home, at public places, railway stations, primary health centres. So we will have to work with three-four ministries: Ministry of Human Resource [Development], Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, Ministry of Social Welfare. And [the third – ] role development to collaborate with these ministries on MHM in India. And WSSCC is working since 5-6 years and we are continuing our support to the government, and working with the partners like UNICEF, WaterAid, and other CSOs to do the advocacy around the MHM in the country. In government of India, under “ODF-Plus” [programme] the MHM is a big component. And I hope the next 5 years the government and partners will work around MHM, and WSSCC will work as a catalyst – like earlier.
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