IIT KGP Foundation extend their hand to develop health and hygiene facilities for Gopali IM High School, Kharagpur
Just imagine going through your day without access to clean water and a toilet. This is a harsh reality that millions of Indian women face every day. The lack of proper sanitation and hygiene facilities for women in India is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed with immediate effect. Improving access to clean sanitation and providing adequate hygiene facilities in schools and workplaces will empower women and promote gender equality in respective areas of concern. In modern India, where women are driving the workforce by increasingly participating and striving for economic independence, the lack of access to basic sanitation facilities, clean water, and improper feminine hygiene is a hindrance to their growth. Not only does it affect their capability to develop, but also limit their ability to fully participate in society by increasing the rate of female dropouts from school.
Proper toilet facilities are essential for the schools especially when we are still suffering from the abrasive effects of the pandemic. Unfortunately in India, many schools lack the adequate and safe toilets for their students. The Rural Development Centre at IIT Kharagpur conducted a survey at Gopali IM High School near Kolkata to assess the toilet facilities available for students. The survey found several critical issues that require immediate attention to ensure that students have access to safe and hygienic toilets. One of the most significant concern is the lack of toilet facilities for girls. This is a great concern for healthcare and education of the young girls as many girls tend to miss schools due to mensuration. Unfortunately many schools lack proper menstrual hygiene facilities including clean and private places for changing sanitary pads and disposal of used pads.
Funded by US-based IIT Kharagpur Alumnus Mukul Khandelia (B.Tech/CS/1998/Azad), Dr. Somnath Ghosal, Centre for Rural Development & Innovative Sustainable Technology initiated the “Ladies Toilet Project” which stood out as an example towards changing the narrative of societal development in terms of health and hygiene. The objective of the Ladies Toilet Project, according to Dr. Ghoshal, is to build a hygienic toilet facility at one of the co-educational higher secondary schools, located in rural West Medinipur district, to address the issues of school dropouts for female students.
One of the high school student of the Gopali IM High School said, “At the time of periods when I was in school, I really had a tough time. After listening to my problems and many requests the school allowed me to go home as there was no other option. I was in a lot of pain which is why I want the school to take some actions which will make things better for all the girls.”
The student reported the lack of privacy due to the toilets location near the entry gate leading to discomfort and embarrassment for those who use it. Exposure to elements was also the another issue as the toilet lacked the roof, making it difficult to use it rainy or hot weather. Safety and privacy concerns were also prevalent as the open location can lead to harassment and assault. The toilet’s poor construction quality, inadequate ventilation insufficient lightening and unstable structures pose safety risks to the students. Additionally students with disabilities and mobility impairments face challenges with the lack of accessibility such as the absence of ramps, grab bars and other assistive devices. The toilets also lacked basic amenities like tap water, soap and hand sanitizer impacting health and hygiene of the students. Moreover limited availability of toilets led to long waiting times and over crowding particularly during peak periods like recess or lunch time.
The lack of proper sanitation facilities including running water also contributed to unhygienic toilets due to poor maintenance and irregular cleaning. Girls faced further issues from inadequate menstrual hygiene management facilities leading to social stigma around using the toilets with many girls avoiding them all together. After the survey, it was found that the Gopali IM High School is in critical need of improving their toilet facilities to ensure the safety privacy and hygiene of their students. It also highlighted the need for awareness and education around proper hygiene and sanitation practices in schools.
Centre for Rural Development & Innovative Sustainable Technology
Through this project we are trying develop girls toilet facility at Gopali IM High School to address two important issues – One is to reduce girls’ student drop-out rate from class 7 onwards and two is to increase girls’ student daily school attendance throughout the year. With the help of generous funding from Khandelia family, the Center for Rural Development and Sustainable Technology (CRDIST) at IIT Kharagpur initiated a project to improve the girls’ toilet facilities at the school. In this documentary, we showcase our baseline survey results, the challenges we faced during the initiation of the project, and the expected transformative impact of our efforts. Join us, as we demonstrate the power of Action Research Project in addressing critical social issues, like health and hygiene. We would like to propagate such initiatives more at the rural level if we get some more national and international endowment,” said Dr. Somnath Ghoshal, Assistant Professor, Centre for Rural Development and Innovative Sustainable Technology.
In West Medinipur district of West Bengal where IIT Kharagpur is located, there are 438 co-educational high schools of which 115 are girls high schools. Out of these high schools, 73 schools are located in rural areas and 42 schools are based in municipal areas. Presently, the total number of female students in higher secondary schools are more than two lakhs fifty thousand in this district. The percentage of enrolled female students (13-19 years age-group), out of the total female population of the same age group is 82 percent of the district.
Mr. Mukul Khandelia
B.Tech, Computer Science,1998
“Thanks to IIT KGP foundation, I feel privileged to be a part of this initiative which promotes the causes of women’s health and education empowering women to shape India’s future,” remarked prominent donor and KGP Alumnus Mr. Mukul Khandelia, B.Tech, Computer Science, IIT Kharagpur. Mr. Khandelia has previously established the Aruna & Ram Gopal Khandelia Innovation Award in his parent’s name at IIT KGP that supports student groups to do innovative projects related to the field of Electronic Product Design (both software and hardware).
As an initial pilot project, Prof. Ghoshal is setting up a modern toilet facility at the Gopali Indranarayan Memorial High School (H.S) which was founded in 1972. There are a total of 750 students at the school of which 370 are girls. Because of a lack of funds, the school has not been able to provide proper toilet facilities to the girls who are always at risk of getting sick due to poor hygiene.
According to the Head of the School, “The adolescent girl students at their specific periodic cycle in a month generally remain absent due to unavailability of proper toilet facilities. This has been a regular problem regarding attendance of girl students every month.”
The socio-economic condition in rural areas of the district are in dire need of financial aid since there are limited livelihood opportunities. Schools located in rural areas are being operated with inadequate and outdated infrastructures including toilets. As a result, the rate of school dropouts, particularly for female students, increases from primary to upper primary and secondary levels. The primary reasons behind this increasing school dropouts for female students are a lack of transport facilities and the deficiency in terms of hygienic toilet facilities.
The need of the hour in terms of hygiene and healthcare for women in India is to improve access to basic sanitation facilities that includes investing in infrastructure such as toilets and water wells, as well as education campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of hygiene along with providing menstrual hygiene management facilities in schools. Other important steps include increasing the number of trained healthcare providers, especially in rural and underprivileged areas, to ensure that women have access to the healthcare they need. Improving the availability and affordability of essential medicines and supplies can also help to ensure that certain conditions are treated at the early stage of treatment. Improvement in basic hygiene and healthcare is necessary to empower women by creating awareness and educating a girl child about correct hygienic measures is the only way to change the attitude of the society towards basic healthcare and hygiene.
Join us on a journey to Gopali I M High School, Kharagpur where we uncover the harsh realities of inadequate sanitation facilities and security issues. Watch this short video about the Ladies Toilet Project produced by Prof. Ghoshal and his team. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2f5CUvAdaQ.
The survey team of the Action Research Project for Ladies’ Toilet Facility comprises of Poulomi Chakraborty, Yasaswini, Sneha, Snehal, Annu Pandey, Simran, Mehak Sharma. IIT KGP Foundation would like to extend its special thanks to Neha & Mukul Khandelia and family for funding the project. The project has been supervised and executed by Dr. Somnath Ghosal, Centre for Rural Development & Innovative Sustainable Technology, IIT Kharagpur.
Contact Person: Prof. Somnath Ghosal, Centre for Rural Development & Innovative Sustainable Technology, IIT Kharagpur
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