The Potty Project

Researching sanitation in low-income urban India.

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Key Takeaway 12 is “in a marginalized and an insecure community, an anchor helps mobilize collective action.” Organizations give anchor and vision around which action can be mobilized. For example, Saraswati Ben in Mirazapur, Ahmedabad has been working with SEWA for the last 35 years. Through SEWA she has been able to inform residents of the slum networking project and mobilize support and patronage.

Fear of standing out is a deterrent for individual action and responsibility. Individuals are generally reluctant to stand out proactively and demand better civic service delivery for themselves or their community. To illustrate, Saraswati Ben in Mirzapur said “no one was willing to take the permit in their name for conducting the festival. I took the permit in my name because I have no fear.”

However, there are individuals within communities who are more progressive and civic minded than others. They are willing to be  part of change initiatives. Dhanraj is an island of progressiveness at GP Block, Pitampura in Delhi. He is a tailor by profession, sells insurance policies to earn extra money and volunteers at an education focused NGO that teaches kids in his community. Over the past few years he has invested Rs. 3000 of his own money to build two public urinals and has participated in shaming drives to prevent open defecation. Individuals such as Dhanraj and Saraswati Ben can be catalysts in their communities when it comes to implementing sanitation facilities and initiatives.

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