By Swapna Majumdar
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
"No toilet, no bride." That's the message of a sanitation campaign in one Indian state that has targeted women and appears to be spurring a big rush in toilet installations. The government hopes to achieve sanitation for all by 2012.
A basic premise of international women's rights activism holds that educating women is the single most effective way to achieve development goals and this sanitation campaign among rural women appears to bear that out.
"Over 1.71 million toilets have been built across the state," said Neerja Shekhar, director of Census Operations in Haryana. That means almost 98 percent of households now have toilets, a huge gain from 29 percent in 2001.
"It took a lot of hard work to create awareness about sanitation. But we realized getting women on board would make it easier," said Shekhar, who actively promoted the "no toilet, no bride" campaign during her prior tenure as director in the state department of women and child. "We took it village by village. We knew that if we could change one village it would become the model for others."
"Linking sanitation with marriage has worked well," Girija Vyas, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, told Women's eNews. "In a state which doesn't give priority to issues like toilets, this strategy has been able to highlight the issue of sanitation and hygiene and underlined its importance for women.
India's rapidly developing economy is the 12th largest in the world and ranks higher by other macroeconomic criterion, such as purchasing power (fourth) and foreign exchange reserves (fifth).
The toilet-installation push is backed by government funding, with federal money accounting for 60 percent of the initiative and the state 28 percent.
The government asks local communities or individuals to come up with the remaining money to encourage ownership and proper use of toilets.
Swapna Majumdar is based in New Delhi, India, and writes about politics, development and gender.
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