When art bridged barriers between sanitation awareness

Art is known to both create and bridge barriers between people. Students from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS) have used it as a medium to sensitise slum dwellers in Kirti Nagar about sanitation and hygiene.

“Project Raahat” was initiated by the social entrepreneurship society of SSCBS — Enactus. It has currently been launched at toilet complexes in Sultanpuri and Kirti Nagar. The aim of the project is to discourage slum dwellers from defecating in the open and encourage them to use the toilet complex instead.


Collaborating with Delhi Street Art, the students have transformed the complexes using cartoon characters and quirky Bollywood slogans that are favoured by the community residing within the slums. Battling the summer heat, volunteers from all over Delhi, invited by the artists of Delhi Street Art, joined the committed team of 12 from SSCBS to bring some colour to the drab toilet complexes.

“Infographics helped us overcome the hurdle of illiteracy among slum dwellers. We use humour as a medium to connect with them. The visual appeal of art also cuts down vandalism,” the enthusiastic team said about the project.

Children from the community have also left their imprints in many of the artworks showcased on the walls of the complex.

Market research

As students of business, the team has put their classroom lesson into practice. Market research is conducted through surveys and statistics are collected by the caretaker at the entrance. They also conduct weekly camps to inculcate messages to take a step toward a daily sanitary routine or health hazards of garbage accumulation. Posters are then conceptualised with the same message so that they can be put up at the complex in order to reinforce the message. The reach of the activities conducted is then evaluated on the basis of the data collected.

In order to engage the families through little ones, a superhero called Raahi, who is an epitome of cleanliness, has also been painted on one of the walls.

“We associate our efforts with other NGOs working in the slums. Last Sunday, Asmita theatre group performed a piece on effective disposal of garbage,” said Vani Kapoor, a member of the team.

They teach the community about cost-effectiveness by advising them to purchase a pass at the beginning of the month. Around 62 families have taken up their advise. At their site in Kirti Nagar, they have implemented household remedies like using borax and lemongrass to get rid of bees.

Government policies

As part of their goal of entrepreneurial development, the team also makes the community aware of government policies like the Jan Dhan Yojna, so that they capitalise the benefit.

“Our goal is not short-sighted or limited to these sites. This has to be the future of toilet complexes all over Delhi,” said Arpita Verma, who looks after design and innovation.

Their ambition is to measure up to the standards set by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge”.

With the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board already implementing their recommendations of building disabled and visually-challenged-friendly toilets (western toilets with support handles) and lower washbasins so that they are accessible to children as well, project Raahat is already bringing about change.

Like the tree painted by the students, Project Raahat is a self-sustaining model. The roots may have been laid by them, but the growth and presence depends on the community. Raju, the caretaker of the complex, promises to keep the initiative going after the students leave.

“We will work together to improve the community,” he added.

( The writer is an intern with The Hindu )

Project Raahat aims to discourage slum dwellers from defecating in the open