The Community Mobilisation for Community Led Health Initiatives with Community Led Total Sanitation project was led by Kasturi Bakshi, Chief Health Functionary of Kalyani Municipality. Kasturi, a medical practitioner, joined the Kalyani Municipality Council (KMC) in 2000 and has performed her duties with a passion to uplift the health standards of the slum communities by visiting them regularly and establishing a close rapport with the people.
In 2008 Kasturi participated in the 39th Summer Seminar on Population at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 2008 Summer Seminar on Population consisted of three workshops:
- Population, Development, and Policy: A Follow-Up Workshop
- Use of Discrete-Time Survival Models to Draw Out the Policy Implications of Demographic and Health Surveys
- Communicating with Policymakers about Population and Health
Kalyani Municipality considers improvement of sanitation as one of its most important project because poor sanitation reduces economic benefits, aggravates poverty and is a hazard for human health. It is an infringement upon human dignity, privacy and safety, especially from women. It weakens the foundation of social development and pollutes the environment. Improving sanitation alone can reduce the disease burden of the country by 50%.
According to the 2005-06 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), in India more than 55% of the population has no access to sanitary toilets and government is trying to address this issue by providing free or subsidized toilets.
- This is causing dependence on government
- This does not address the issue of behavior change
Moreover, is construction of toilets for more than 500million people possible for the government?
Kalyani Municipality tried out a different approach to address this issue by piloting the project ‘Community Mobilisation for Community Led Health Initiatives’ with ‘Community Led Total Sanitation’ as the entry point. By participatory approach, community people were made aware of the following:
- The concept of a sanitary toilet
- Sanitary toilets can be constructed at an affordable cost by all
- Medical expenditure will be reduced only if everybody uses sanitary toilets
- Other benefits of total sanitation
With participatory approach of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Programme, Kalyani has shown the way to prevent environmental pollution caused by open defecation. This unique approach has empowered the poor slum dwellers to make their slums open defecation free without any external financial aid. This approach has not simply increased the number of toilets but has ensured usage and behavior change.