After four years of stint in news media, I started to work with a New Delhi-based NGO in area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). It runs various projects of international NGOs. They asked me to document their initiatives in various schools and Anganwadi Centres(AC). Before delving into detail there is a need to shade light on Anganwadi Centres. The Indian Government started these centres for children under Integrated Child Development Scheme where the government provides free lunch to children(0-06).
Without prior experience in documentation, I ventured into the sector of ‘not-for-profit’. Though I have masters in rural development and I was aware about key policy issues.
In partnership with donors, they installed hand washing platforms, cemented floor and white washing in Anganwadi Centres in Delhi, India. In order to understand actual situation, I went there on the first day of my job. These enclaves are known as Camps in Delhi where street are narrow. Clogged drains are very common and they pose several challenges related to health. But it is a buzzing pulsating place where migrants from various states are cohabiting irrespective their identities. There are many Aganwaadi Centres where children and toddlers were queued for the Mid-Day Meal. Everyday children from nearby areas gather here and play with their friends. It has emerged as a centre for activity where children come with their mothers for food and play there. Their mothers talk and interact with other women. I witnessed that they were involved in some activities. Keeping this in mind, NGOs installed hand washing platforms. They demonstrated and discussed benefit of hand washing which is a step towards achieving goal of personal hygiene in the underserved communities.
A Sustainable Solution!
In development sector, designers design various tools to tackle more complex problems and mainly they ephasise on functionality of products. It’s a new way to provide low-cost healthcare (and sanitation) throughout the world. But many times such low cost products undermine basic things. With help from International Donors, NGO started this initiative and local politician was invited. In a first glance, I found that there was no hinge in the gallon which was being used for storage of water. They just holed in 20 litre Gallon and adjust into a iron frame. I was surprised to see that how top NGO and MNC allowed to install it. I’m sure that they never opened it. I informed Head of NGO that there is a need to add one hinge in the box of washing platform. Otherwise it’s useless. On the other hand, I suggested making one soap case in hand washing platform where one can put soap after hand wash. In order to make project effective, there is a need to ensure day-to-day involvement and observation. And it’s not ‘rocket science’; one can easily observe innovative solutions. They can adopt simple way to documentation just following simple principle – Wrote what you see or observe during visit. I realised that many NGOs which are running with help from outside funding are not unable choose appropriate tools for their projects. They are just parasites. During this assignment, I realised that donors are not involved actively in many projects. Their visits are just ‘poortainment’. There is no monitoring. There is sheer lack of expertise and finance. It’s not an isolated case; they are just trying to make for profit. With help of technological advancement, people are coming up with affordable products which make facilities better and easily accessible for the underserved communities. There is a need to focus on such sustainable solutions.