Providing women the Right to Go in rural India

A woman stands in front of her toilet block in Sogav, India.

A woman stands in front of her toilet block in Sogav, India.

By Atul Bhide, immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Thane Hills, India

Less than 80 kilometers (49.6 miles) from the urban centers of Mumbai and Thane, India, lies the village of Sogav in Shahapur Taluka. Here, like in many villages in India, women and girls face the daily indignity of having to walk miles in the early hours to find a safe and discreet place to relieve themselves.

A simple bodily need that many of us take for granted exposes these women and children to hygiene and safety risks every day. It is a difficult situation under normal circumstances, but when these women experience any kind of sickness or health concern, their experience becomes appalling.

My Rotary club decided to do something to help, perhaps a baby step, but a step nevertheless. On 8 June, we dedicated our “Right to Go” project, which included the construction of 210 toilet blocks, at a cost of 18,000 Indian Rupees per toilet block (about US$300) for an equal number of homes. We selected homes based on income level (those with the lowest income) and number of female members in the household. We were blessed to be supported on our project by the Rotary Club of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA, and a grant from The Rotary Foundation.

Dr. Renuka Desai, who was born in Mumbai and is now a member of the Cherry Hill club, visited Sogav village and volunteered her support to our project, and we are extremely grateful for her help.

We are remaining involved in the welfare of the village through the following programs. A Rotary Community Corps is serving as a catalyst between the villagers and Rotary. Members of our club will take part in ongoing hygiene awareness presentations to instruct villagers on the dangers of waterborne diseases and the importance of preventative health care. Local officials will conduct a hygiene edit and check sanitation levels periodically. And we are entering classrooms with our Win the Kids Over program to make sure they understand the importance of good hygiene.

The toilet blocks are environmental friendly Green Toilets. Each toilet is equipped with two soak-pits with special honey comb designed brick work inside. They are odor-free and do not require any drainage. The village has a water supply thanks to the Shai river next to their village. Households maintain their toilet block.

It touched all of our hearts when at the dedication, Kiran Khandagale, one of the villagers, said “the greatest ornament for a woman is her dignity, I thank Rotary for helping us to protect it.”

As icing on the cake, the honorable Postmaster General for the Mumbai region, Department of Post, released a special postal cancellation paying tribute to our “Right to Go” project. We are thankful to the Rotary Foundation for the global grant that made this possible.

Give to The Rotary Foundation to support projects like these. Every gift, from every Rotarian, makes a world of difference.

14 thoughts on “Providing women the Right to Go in rural India

  1. Pingback: Providing women the Right to Go in rural India | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

  2. Provision of toilets to the needy women and the girl child is a very significant project. After Polio eradication, this project is crucial for India. All Rotary Clubs will be doing this. Indeed in today’s Independence Day speech the Prime Minister also strongly advocated this: to ensure dignity and continuing education for our female population. My Rotary Club of Poona Downtown is doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello to all Rotarians……… I too was associated with Rotary in India since last 8 years. Recently I have joined an internationally acclaimed NGO – Sulabh International Social Service Organisation engaged in the environmental sanitation movement since 70’s with its low cost two-pit toilet technology. Rotary Clubs who are interested to work towards providing a safe and hygienic toilet facilities in small villages and for poor families, can contact me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. IT is very good. We need to share more. May by exchange of ideas between clubs or with RI global grant we may need to do some thing?- Great idea
    Please continue for all RURAL INDIA

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you all friends for your good words. . . I will continue my mission to the best of my ability. . .may be more that that, thanks to motivations like these from you all.

    I would be happy to keep you all updated on the next Right To Go project, if you can update me with your email ids.

    Regards,

    Atul Bhide

    Like

  6. Hello friends,

    I am very happy to share an update on our project ‘Right To Go.

    On 18th September, 2014 Rtn Vijay Mandewal and I had been to our project site at Sogav.

    We visited 30 to 35 homes, talked with number of beneficiaries of our project and were happy to see that all the toilets are being regularly used and maintained neat and clean.

    This was a bigger satisfaction than actually constructing those toilets, as we saw and listen to various stories of how our project has touched their lives. It was an amazing experience and felt very content. It once again proved that our project was and is truly a need based project.

    We also had a session on sanitation, hygiene and importance of hand wash at the local school. I found the kids were smarter than the adults!!

    Kudos to Rotary and it’s foundation!

    Like

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