A stark reality for many women in villages is the need to attend to nature’s call even before the sun rises, often risking their lives and compromising their dignity.
“Sanitation is a human right and it is appalling to see how negligible the facilities for women are,” said Jasintha Quadras, principal of Stella Maris College, adding, “Women become vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence when open defecation is their only choice.”
She was speaking at a ceremony for conferring the Mother Teresa Memorial Award on Bindeshwar Pathak, founder, Sulabh International Institute of Health and Hygiene, for his contributions towards providing sanitation facilities and engaging communities in social change.
The paucity of sanitation facilities is not restricted to rural areas. “Many girls say they just don’t use the toilets in government schools, leading to health risks and increased drop-outs,” said M.B. Nirmal of ExNoRa.
Nearly 140 million of India’s population does not have access to sanitation facilities, according to A.R.K. Pillai, founder-president of Indian Development Foundation (IDF), the organisation that conferred the award. But by building about 8,000 community toilet complexes all over the country that use ‘two-pit-pour-flush technology,’ Dr. Pathak, a Padma Bhushan awardee, has contributed towards liberating 1,20,000 manual scavengers and reducing open defecation. Further, his NGO gives vocational training to rehabilitate erstwhile scavengers.
M.S. Swaminathan, founder-chairman of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, presented the award.