India faces several unique challenges to achieving its WASH goals. Currently, India houses the most open defecators in the world, 60% percent of the population lacks access to improved sanitation, and 76 million people are without a safe water source. Stakeholders in India have responded to these large-scale challenges with strong policies and innovative solutions from civil society organizations and the private sector. In October 2014, the government of India instituted the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission in English), under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Swachh Bharat is a national mission aimed at “cleaning-up” India by encouraging citizens to engage in tasks like maintaining clean streets and homes. As a part of The Swachh Bharat Mission, India also seeks to become Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2019.
In addition to efforts in the public sector, India is also home to millions of civil society organizations that have achieved a number of social changes in the country in the last twenty years, including progress in the WASH sector. Taking a look at some of the organizations in the India cohort of our WASH Impact Network can lend insight to how civil society organizations are working to transform the WASH climate in India.
R4D works closely with our partner, Dasra--an India-based philanthropy foundation and impact accelerator focused on social change—to support WASH Impact Network members in India with valuable tools, resources, and learning opportunities.
Attributes of WASH Impact Network Members in India
Extensive Geographic Coverage
Fifty-seven WASH organizations in the WASH Impact Network operate in India. Organizations work all over the country, in 19 different states, including Delhi, Utter Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, with thirteen organizations operating country-wide.
Locations of WASH programs in the WASH Impact Network in India
Conventional Funding Models
Programs identify as not-for-profit, for profit, and hybrid organizations. Organizations classified as hybrid generate revenue through the sale of a product or service but are supported by donor funding. The vast majority of the organizations in India are not-for-profit. Only 10% are for profit, and 5% are hybrid organizations.
Waterlife is a for-profit organization in India working country-wide. Waterlife is a provider of Community Drinking Water Plants that can process water that meet and exceed WHO and India government standards. Waterlife operates the plants for ten years after installation, and utilizes the help of government, NGOs and self help-groups to address issues of access to safe water.
A Mix of Ages and Sizes
The cohort also also varies in size and age. Organizations were established as early as 1968 and as recently as 2015, with 42 of the programs established within the last 10 years. From 2 to 700 plus staff members and budgets ranging from US $2,500 to US $1.2 million, programs in the India cohort also vary in budget and staff size.
Broad in Scope
When it comes to focus area, the WASH programs are even more diverse. Programs in India broadly focus on water, sanitation, and hygiene, but also have more specific focus areas. Some programs address safe drinking water, menstrual hygiene management, water storage, waste management and disposal, policy and governance, water purification, and groundwater extraction.
Although there is a lot of overlap, two of the most common focus areas among the India programs include menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and drinking water.
Reap Benefit is a hybrid organization working in Karnataka state focusing on sanitation solutions. They work with schools and government to encourage schoolchildren to problem-solve real-life sanitation issues in their communities. Reap Benefit has also developed sanitation products like a waterless urinal designed with recycled PET bottles and a grey water harvesting system. Their interventions reuse about 40% of water consumed on average.
India currently has the greatest number of people that lack access to clean water in the world. Although access to safe water sources has greatly improved in India, millions are still without the precious resource. Sixteen programs in our network address safe drinking water.
In India, MHM has received a great deal of attention from the national government. Guidelines to address stigma and promote health education for MHM are outlined in the Swachh Bharat Mission. Nineteen India WASH Impact Network members working to address MHM. Expertise ranges from reusable pad production and distribution to advocacy and education.
Aaina is a non-profit organization working in Southern India seeking to improve the health and well-being of adolescent girls through MHM. Aaina works with communities to encourage conversation around menstruation. They empower girls to become invested in their well-being and raise concerns about their reproductive and sexual health. Through meetings with schools, family members, and other school stakeholders, social taboos and stigmas are addressed, and adolescent girls are educated on proper menstrual hygiene practices.
India is in good hands
The organizations in the India cohort of the WASH Impact Network are only a small subset of the millions of civil society organizations working to address the needs of the 800 million people living in poverty in India. India has achieved a great deal of success in furthering progress toward WASH goals in recent years, but it will take time and investment and partnerships across sectors to continue this progress.
Interested in learning more about programs in the WASH Impact Network? Check out the programs section of our website to see profiles of programs.
The WASH Impact Network also has a cohort in East Africa. Check out this blog post for a snapshot of WASH innovators in East Africa.