Today, 597 million of India’s people practise open defecation. Open defecation has devastating side e ects. It’s been shown to cause cholera, typhoid and other preventable diseases, impair cognitive function and lead to malnutrition, even when there is no shortage of food. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, often walking long distances to remote areas to relieve themselves before dawn or after dark. This puts them at an increased risk of violence.
Under the direction of our Chancellor, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), Embracing the World’s Amrita University has conceived and deployed an outside-the-box solution: we’ve enrolled women to champion the cause of improving sanitation throughout India by teaching them to build toilets for their communities.
Learning to build toilets means mastering the basics of plumbing and masonry through a hands-on approach through a developed, modern and mobile computerised method, to vocational training that runs on both computers and tablets and is designed for people who have never used them before. Video lectures, interactive games and assessments teach skills in a way that is engaging for the students of varying educational backgrounds, even those who never learned to read. Students then practise what they’ve learned by actually building toilets.
Their approach also offers Life Enrichment Education designed to ensure the women receive the con dence and support they need to put their newfound technical knowledge into practice. They also learn how important good hygiene and sanitation are for the health of their whole family and that the changes they need to make are within reach: simple, small and affordable.
So far, our courses have reached more than 5,000 women throughout rural India. They have built over 200 toilets in their communities and have become ambassadors of better hygiene, sanitation, and the elimination of open defecation, so that they can take their entire village on the journey toward becoming a safer and healthier community.
Amrita University has just begun a new Centre for Gender Equality & Women Empowerment in India to further these efforts.