In an exclusive interview with India CSR Network, Mamta Saikia, CEO, Bharti Foundation, philanthropic arm of Bharti Group talked about Satya Bharti Abhiyan and how it made impact on community and stakeholders. Satya Bharti Abhiyan is a sanitation program launched in 2014, constructed over 24000 toilets free of cost to individual households across 1282 villages and 11 urban local bodies in Ludhiana and rural Amritsar District benefitting over 1,80,000 beneficiaries. Excerpts:
What is the aim of Satya Bharti Abhiyan and what were the main concerns that this project seeks to address?
While we primarily work in the rural education space with our two flagship education initiatives – Satya Bharti School program and Satya Bharti Quality Support Program, the Satya Bharti Abhiyan was launched after the clarion call to corporate India by Prime Minister of India to strengthen Govt.’s initiative on this score. The program aims at providing individual household toilets to those families which did not have one.
At the time of launch the program covered rural and urban parts of Ludhiana which was later extended to rural parts of Amritsar. In addition to the construction of toilets, the Satya Bharti Abhiyan actively supported the administration in fostering behavior change in communities through Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaigns.
What objectives are set for this project and what has been the major accomplishments made by this program so far?
Under Satya Bharti Abhiyan program, we envisioned to provide access to toilet in every household not having one and promote good sanitation practices among community members at large.
We surveyed over 1500 villages and constructed more than 24,000 toilets, which have been handed over free-of-cost to the beneficiaries. In addition to the construction of individual toilets, we have also provided separate Girls’ toilets in 14 Govt. schools, toilets for 11 urban local bodies and 37 separate ladies’ toilets in police stations, posts and offices across Ludhiana. The program is currently benefiting over 1,80,000 individuals.
Our Satya Bharti Program has also motivated over 40,000 students of Satya Bharti Schools to become the change agents and undertake awareness campaigns in their respective villages.
The concerted efforts of the students and teachers of Bharti Foundation resulted in construction of toilets in more than 3000 households. Our students still continue to raise awareness around the issues of cleanliness, sanitation and water conservation.
What were the steps taken by Bharti Foundation for the successful implementation of the project?
For any program to be successful, focus on quality, process transparency, stakeholder involvement & empowerment as well as strategic communications are the key pillars. We incorporated these themes into the program, picked up the learnings from the ground and formed partnerships that helped us deliver this large scale program with speed and quality.
At the time of application, the beneficiaries were made to understand the specifications of the toilets and during the handing over process, the satisfaction of the beneficiary is placed on top priority. Gram Panchayat was also involved in auditing the toilets that has been delivered, thus empowering them in monitoring quality and process on ground. The list of all beneficiaries were submitted to Govt. authorities to conduct independent checks on the number as well as quality of toilets constructed.
One-on-one interaction with beneficiaries, use of easy-to-understand booklets, village/gram sabha meetings and rallies etc., helped encourage regular use and proper operation and maintenance of toilets. These efforts yielded great results which was reflected in the survey which was done after a year of handing over the toilets, confirming over 98% usage by the beneficiaries.
Were there any significant roadblocks in the project? If yes, what were those and how did you overcome?
Any project which is being implemented at scale and with clear timelines will face numerous on-ground challenges. One of the key challenge for us was to ensure the quality of toilets being delivered across the villages of Ludhiana. The Foundation adhered to the processes that were formulated at the beginning of the program, which centered around transparency, participation and empowerment of stakeholders for all the major activities like beneficiary identification, social audits etc., which helped us deliver the desired quality consistently.
What makes Satya Bharti Abhiyan unique?
In rural Ludhiana, 17,628 toilets were provided within two years which translates into 24 toilets were provided per day. The innovative processes adopted for engagement and empowerment of all stakeholders leading to their demonstrated ownership of the project by the over 98.5 % usage of the toilets provided is unique to the project and will also ensure its sustainability.
What was the major learning from the project with regards to implementation?
One of the major learning we had during the program’s implementation is with reference to the power of social audits and stakeholders empowerment which inculcates a sense of ownership among beneficiaries and leads to sustained outcomes. Continuous connect with the beneficiaries at various stages of project, through multiple contact points ensured that all type of gaps in implementation were identified quickly, which helped us take corrective active as well as modify the process, if required.
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