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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Toilet for Babli (A Domex Initiative)

Dreams of making it big drives them to school, but bitter ground realities like the lack of basic sanitation (read toilets) forces them to stay away. With nearly 47 % of the government school lacking toilet facilities, the girls prefer to skip school (on those days of the month) or even drop out altogether once they reach adolescence. A big blow to any development/growth  plan considering that women make up half of the population or workforce of the country. The CIA World Factbook suggests that if just 1 percent more girls were enrolled in schools in India the country's GDP would rise by an estimated $5.5 billion. Most of these drop-outs who have not completed basic schooling end by being married off early which more often than not results in early motherhood (and miscarriages or low-weight babies in most cases). If at all they choose to work, they have to make do with menial work and dismally low salaries. A catch 22 situation, this perpetuates the existing gender gap between men and women.

Those few ambitious ones who dare to brave it out resort to extreme measures like skipping the breakfast or mid-day meal and even forgoing on the minimum water intake so that they do not have to answer nature's call during the school hours. However such habits can lead to further complications like nutritional deficiency, lack of attention stemming from low hemoglobin levels and in a few cases even urine infection from holding it for too long. The other option available is defecating or urinating in the open fields which more often than not leads to various infections and health ailments. It is also a blow to their dignity as have no choice but to expose themselves to the prying eyes of whoever chooses to watch them.

The situation back home is no better for most of these girls. Forced to step out of the safety of their homes if they need to answer nature's call during the night, they are sitting ducks for most sexual predators. A recent crime (involving minors) in the heartland of India brought this lacunae to light. Ensuring that every Indian household has a toilet has become imperative to ensuring the safety of the women. While the issue of open air defecation is not specific to a particular gender, it is highly diabolical that while women are being murdered in the name of honor, no attempt is made to preserve their honor within the four walls of the house. Or maybe these are people who believe that it is 'OK' for the womenfolk to expose their bum rather than their faces.

It is high time that such people are educated and brought in the fold of the 'Swaach Bharth' campaign that has been flagged off by our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. It would do everyone good if some of his enthusiasm rubs off on each and every Indian and we do our bit to make India a cleaner and wealthier nation. Three cheers for Domex (and HUL) for taking this great initiative.

This article is written for Domex which runs the Domex Toilet Academy programme which makes toilets accessible and affordable. The '#ToiletForBabli' is an initiative to make Indian villages 'open-defecation' free and provide our children with a better and healthier future. You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is “click” on the “Contribute Tab” on www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.

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