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Activate Talk on “Innovations to Support Ending Open Defecation
" Experts, innovators and thought-leaders discussed new ways of thinking to address the sanitation crisis in India, approaching the issue from different angles including social and behaviour change, pub "
NEW DELHI, India - As part of the celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF organised an Activate Talk on “Innovations to Support Ending Open Defecation”.
 
Experts, innovators and thought-leaders discussed new ways of thinking to address the sanitation crisis in India, approaching the issue from different angles including social and behaviour change, public dialogue and advocacy, policy and youth engagement.
 
Despite the progress done over the last 20 years, India is still home to the world’s largest population of people who defecate in the open, some 595 million or just under half of the population of India do not use a toilet.

The Government of India is now prioritising sanitation under the Swachch Bharat Mission with calls for everyone to contribute to the Prime Minister’s goal of ending open defecation by the end of 2019. It is now that innovation is needed.

 

Moderator: Nalin Mehta, writer, social historian and columnist.
 
Excerpts... 

David Mcloughlin, Deputy Representative, UNICEF India.
 
“In the wider social context, too few have challenged the levels of complacency and passivity that exist in respect of prevailing social norms that have resulted in India having the highest number of people globally who open defecate. This is why in 2014 UNICEF took a stand by designing a campaign in a totally different way, called Take Poo to the Loo. This innovation was risky and unprecedented not least because of the content matter (defecation) and society’s complex relationship with it. This relationship is one bound by issues of caste, gender and poverty; of taboo and faith driven beliefs around cleanliness and purity and the deeply held attitude that this is someone else’s problem”.
 
Anshul Tewari, Founder of Youth Ki Awaaz: Online platforms as a tool to harness the power of youth to create social change
 
“Over the last 5 years, social media has played a big role in unifying young people across the country. From sharing optimistic stories of change to addressing some of the biggest issues that our generation faces. However, even now, a problem as big as open defecation that is one of the pressing causes of preventable diarrheal diseases which leads to the death of over 563 children under 5, every day, is not being discussed openly. Social media provides us with the opportunity to make this conversation mainstream, and the discourse stronger. We need innovation, creativity and content to ensure that we don't turn a blind eye to the problem of open defecation. It isn't just about people in rural or semi-urban areas, it is also about the people who have the power to influence decision making, and social media gives us direct access to those young people. Let's tap into these platforms and impact change”.
 
Sonal Kapoor, Founder of Protsahan: Use of innovative communication approaches to change mindsets among children and adolescents (especially girls) from marginalized communities.
 
“In India, traditionally, elders tell the stories and children listen to them. We, at Protsahan, reversed the paradigm and made children storytellers. Using innovative approaches of design, art, digital stories, photography and cinema we are trying to stimulate children’s creative expression to break taboos around open defecation. India’s sanitation crisis needs more than just building toilets. It needs art innovation to promote behavior change so people, including children, who are part of the problem become part of the solution.”
 
Swami Chidanand Saraswati, co-founder Global Inter-Faith WASH Alliance: From temples to toilets – the power of faith to influence sanitation behavior change.
 
“Open defecation is open devastation. Faith leaders are willing to take up the challenge in order to improve the lives of millions of children that lack access to proper sanitation. The biggest problem we have ahead of us is awareness. We have to educate our people through our religious places. We have worshiped the creator for so long but we must not forget the creation. Together we can make change happens. This is a historic beginning.”
 
Aruna Rajoria, Indian Administrative Service, Mission Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan - Education for All Campaign, Government of Assam: Group handwashing with soap in Schools before the mid-day meal.
 
“In Assam, Group Handwashing with Soap before the Mid-day Meal started in 100 schools in 2013 and will be reaching to 10,000 by 2015. Capacity building of teachers, school management committees, students, mothers and cooks; installation of the low-cost hardware in schools; and up-scaling of the interventions have been crucial to ensure the success of this innovation. We have seen that where group handwashing with soap is implemented, children become agents of change. They absorb the messages quickly and influence their families to adapt hygienic habits, including the use of toilets.”
 
Sue Coates, Chief Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF India.
 
“Partnerships are powerful. And partnership for good change is a mindset. Ending open defecation in India is everyone’s business – there is no shying away from this. Together collective solutions will result in the social movement – the WASH revolution that we have heard about today”. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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