Piped water helps rural women to bathe in private


By Vaishnavi Pawar

12 December 2018

In Odisha, where a high number of rural households lack enclosed bathing spaces. The construction of bathrooms and piped water supply afford women safety and the dignity of privacy.

An enclosed bathing space and toilet, while ensuring better hygiene for the women, also gives them time for other activities.

Photograph by Ajaya Behera.

Priya Munda is a 22-year-old girl from Lahanda Mundasahi, a village in the Keonjhar district of Odisha. With no direct road connectivity, one has to cross a railway track and walk 1.5 km to reach the village.

On the way to her village is a pond. Munda’s day includes fetching water and helping her mother in the livelihood activities of a self-help group. For her sanitation needs, she goes to the pond, usually accompanied by her younger cousin. She bathes hurriedly in the pond, partially clothed. She feels awkward to bathe near the well, where the other women of her village bathe. She disposes of her menstrual pad by digging a hole near the pond and burying it.

Munda admits that she does not feel clean after bathing in the pond, but has no other option. Households in Lahanda Mundasahi are among the 55% rural households in India and among the 95.31% of rural households of Odisha that do not have enclosed bathing spaces, as per Census 2011.

Grey water from the bathrooms flows into the kitchen garden, while sewage flows into soak pits. Photograph from Gram Vikas archive.

Gram Vikas is bringing the sanitation facilities to Lahanda Mundasahi. The intervention ensures that every household in the village constructs for itself a toilet and bathroom and has 24-hour piped water supply for the toilet, bathroom and the kitchen. 

Water supply to the bathrooms and toilets is from an overhead water tank. The water is pumped up using electric pumps or the gravity flow system. Sewage from toilets flow into soak pits; the grey water from bathrooms flows into the drainage systems or kitchen garden if space permits.

Gram Vikas provides technical assistance to construct the toilets, in addition to facilitating households to access INR 12,000 under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. People manage the rest by using local materials, physical labour and cash contribution.

Swachh Bharat campaign and financial support have enabled the construction of toilets and bathing spaces in villages such as Lohanda Mundasari. Photograph from Gram Vikas archive.

For water supply, 90% of the infrastructure cost is met from the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and Government of Odisha. Villagers contribute the remaining 10% and labour. People’s contribution creates a sense of ownership for the assets, thus ensuring usage and maintenance.

A committee that has men and women members oversees the collection and use of funds, monitoring the construction and maintenance of the sanitation structures. The participation of women ensures that they are part of the decision-making process resulting in effective intervention.

A man in front of a constructed toilet bathing room unit for his household.

Photograph by Ajaya Behera.


A longer version of this story first appeared in Village Square, an integrated communications initiative focusing on the impact of national and local policies on rural communities.


Vaishnavi Pawar is a researcher at VikasAnvesh Foundation in Pune.


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