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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/898

Title: Women’s needs, women’s action: toilet development in urban and rural communities of india
Authors: Sharma, Sanya S.
Keywords: History and politics;Women -- Health and hygiene -- India;Toilets -- India
Issue Date: 28-Jul-2006
Abstract: The desire for the toilet, one of the most basic of facilities, is expressed by many throughout India, especially women. Sixty-six percent of the urban population either do not have access to a toilet at all or must rely on bucket latrines (Pathak, p. 5). Ninety percent of the rural villages of India have no access to a toilet (Pathak, p. 4). The lack of availability of proper toilet amenities hits women the hardest in both the urban and rural sectors of India. In urban cities, workplaces, schools, and recreational areas are inadequately supplied with toilet facilities for women. Often, women must walk for kilometers before they can find proper amenities. This situation is even worse in rural areas where not only is supply limited but women, as the care-takers of the latrines, must transport water from long distances to clean facilities or dispose of waste where no toilets exist. However, there is another side to the toilet situation in India. It is one that is drastically different from the images above. It is the story of female empowerment and control of a technology to better their social positions and to build healthier communities for themselves and their families. Ironically, this empowerment stems from traditional gender roles that delineate the practices mentioned above. For example, since the women are the main caretakers of water and sanitation facilities, their role and participation assumes great significance in revolutionizing the construction, engineering, and overall availability of toilets in their societies. The women of India have turned a major obstacle, the lack of toilets, into a means of community and political empowerment. They have proven to the government of India and multinational organizations, such as the World Bank, that their expertise in toilet management is invaluable. Without their input, agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, would spend valuable resources building ineffective and unusable facilities; as proof of this three percent of latrines constructed by the government, World Bank projects, or foreign non-governmental organizations without these women’s consultation are actually usable as toilets (Paramasivan, p. 2). Specific cultural attitudes intertwined with religious beliefs and a history of colonialism and failed aid attempts have created a unique developmental discourse prevalent throughout India. This is exemplified by the technology of the toilets. These women’s humble plight to build toilets to serve their communities is challenging established western discourses defining who can be labeled a scientist or an engineer. Through their control of the toilet technology in their communities, these Indian women are showing how lay people of many cultures have valuable ideas and skills to offer the fields of science and technology.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/898
Appears in Collections:Drexel Theses and Dissertations

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