Sunday, November 19, 2023

Svayam's 'Accessible Family Toilet Project' Reveals that 76% of People in Rural India, with Reduced Mobility, Struggle to Access Basic Sanitation Facilities

In four years, 1.44 crore individuals have been made aware of the significance of accessible sanitation across 14 states and 138 districts in India

1,008 rural families have successfully availed loans amounting to nearly INR 3 Crore to facilitate the construction of accessible toilets in their homes

19th November 2023, Delhi: Svayam, India's pioneering accessibility organisation and the social impact arm of Jindal SAW, unveils key findings from the ground-breaking Accessible Family Toilet Project, implemented with Foundation for Accessible Aquanir and Sanitation (FAAS- India wing of Discovering that over 76% of individuals with reduced mobility struggle to access sanitation facilities through an initial need assessment survey, Svayam initiated this project in 2019 across 14 states and 138 districts of India. Over the 4 years, through 24,500 Self Help Groups (SHGs), Joint Liability Groups (JLGs), and Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) this project has touched lives of about 1.5 crore individuals (approximately 1% of India’s population) and trained over 1554 local plumbers and masons on accessible toilets. Emerging as a beacon of hope and progress, Svayam’s sensitizing and training programs under this project has helped rural India be future ready by building accessible sanitation facilities. 

While toilets are recognised as a basic necessity, there are still a staggering number of people with reduced mobility, including senior citizens, people with disabilities, pregnant women, kids, etc., who are deprived of this facility. Recognising this, Svayam conceived the concept of 'accessible toilets' and drove awareness at the grassroots level on the significance of accessible toilets in Indian households. With 69% of People with Disabilities (PwD) and 71% of India's senior citizens residing in rural parts of India, Svayam led the project intending to improve sanitation facilities for the safety, convenience and dignity of these people.

To understand the need for accessible toilets, a comprehensive three-month need assessment survey was conducted in India, revealing the pressing need for accessible sanitation facilities. Shocking statistics emerged, highlighting the challenges faced by those with disabilities and reduced mobility. In India, 22% of people with disabilities earn less than 3000 per month. Indicating that apart from awareness of what accessible toilets entail, there was also a need for awareness of sanitation loans that are provided through microfinance models such as Self-Help Groups (SHGs), Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) and others. 

Shedding light on this transformative endeavour, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder - Chairperson of Svayam and Managing Director of Jindal SAW Ltd., shares, "At Svayam, we firmly believe that accessibility is an inherent human need and an undeniable right for every individual. Our extensive four-year project has shattered myths that accessibility isn't solely essential for individuals with disabilities; it is necessary for all. Through this project, we've witnessed the willingness of rural communities to invest their savings and even take loans to fulfil this fundamental need—accessible toilets at home. What's truly remarkable is the staggering 99.0% repayment rate, a testament to the unwavering commitment of borrowers towards enhancing their quality of life."

The impact of the initiative on individuals has been substantial, with over 1,008 families having successfully availed loans amounting to nearly INR 3 Crore to facilitate the construction of accessible toilets in their homes. The project initially commenced in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Odisha. Encouraged by the impact on the beneficiaries, with the assistance of 14 Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), the project expanded to an additional nine states including, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana, and West Bengal.

Further, this project's success prompted Svayam and NHFDC Foundation to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to expand it to 17 Swalamban Kendras across seven northern states of India. Kicking off this collaboration, the inaugural activity conducted in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh, focusing on training plumbers and masons to construct accessible toilets. Concurrently, a village-wide survey is underway by the NHFDC Foundation. Impressively, 70% of the families taking the survey have expressed keen interest in obtaining loans to upgrade their toilets. 

Mr Naveen Shah, Chairman -cum- Managing Director, NDFDC, said, “Svayam and NDFDC Foundation remain committed to promoting accessibility and inclusivity for all individuals, including those with reduced mobility. We have planned to develop a model village in the Kannauj District of Uttar Pradesh, implementing accessible toilets in the households that need them. The response to the survey from the village shows a willingness to adapt to a better lifestyle." 

Svayam's findings and experiences have been myth-breaking, demonstrating that people in India's villages are eager to embrace a more inclusive and accessible lifestyle. At a time when the importance of sanitation is often taken for granted, these accessible toilets address crucial matters of safety and hygiene, empowering families to lead healthier, better lives. Svayam is tirelessly expanding its efforts to create greater awareness about accessible toilets, aiming to magnify its impact across India. 

Impact Driven so far:

3,620 families expressed keen interest in adopting accessible toilet facilities at home

64% have opted to build accessible toilets for their elderly family members, prioritising their comfort and dignity

26% have utilised loans to build toilets for family members with disabilities, including those with obesity and accident victims

8% have adopted accessible toilets with future readiness in mind, creating homes that stand prepared for the years ahead to ensure the safety, dignity, and independence of family members as they age in place

An additional 2% have constructed toilets for pregnant family members at home

More than 2500 MFI staff were involved in this process to create awareness of Credit Financing for people with reduced mobility

Over 270 families from Maharashtra alone have opted for loans to build accessible toilets in their homes. 

These loans have a striking 99.0% repayment rate

Many have used their savings to modify the toilets to make them accessible


About Svayam

Svayam is a leading accessibility organisation that aims to reform infrastructure and transportation to make it accessible for people with reduced mobility. Accessibility aids individuals and gives them the freedom to independently explore the built environment around them, irrespective of their physical capabilities. This was on philanthropist-business visionary Sminu Jindal's mind when she founded Svayam in October 2000. An initiative of the Sminu Jindal Charitable Trust, Svayam is a not-for-profit accessibility pioneer that focuses on creating a barrier-free world for all. 


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