Gramalaya has been working in the WASH sector for more than 3 decades since 1987. Gramalaya is one of the approved Key Resource Centre of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India. Since 1989, Gramalaya has been involved in promotion and construction of individual household latrines in the rural and urban areas by supporting CRSP, TSC, NBA and SBM schemes of the sanitation programs of the central and State Government. Gramalaya was supported by different donors like WaterAid, UNICEF, WSP-South Asia, World Bank, and different State Governments like Puducherry and Tamil Nadu for promoting household sanitation. The Government provides support for construction of household latrines (IHHL- Individual. household latrines), the toilet facilities for those who do not have any space for construction at the household-level are to be met by community toilets in the slums and rural areas as Integrated Sanitary Complexes. Various Government schemes are available for construction of Community Toilets/Public Toilets in the urban areas for serving the slum dwellers where the households in the slums are having less than 100 sq.ft. with congested population and narrow lanes. The community toilets are constructed and promoted by the Central and State Government Departments in the common land available at the Cities with huge investment. The toilet complexes meant for community usage are provided with good toilet type designs and adequate budget provisions to meet the requirements of the slum population. Inspite of the community toilet complexes built in the slums, stopping open defecation and making the community infrastructures available under usage and maintenance posing major O & M problems particularly, a headache to the City Corporation authorities. Within a few months of its construction and operation, the entire community assets were damaged and in disuse by the communities due lack of hygiene education, strong presence of community based organisations and user groups particularly without any maintenance mechanisms. When Gramalaya started its operation in the urban slums of Tiruchirappalli in the year 1989 with the support of WaterAid and Tiruchirappalli city Corporation support, the concept of community managed toilets through SHGs was first introduced in India which become a role model projects for pay and use toilet systems to ensure proper usage and maintenance and for sustainability of the program with long-lasting hygiene behaviours and practices among the urban poor.
Gramalaya has formed women`s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the urban slums as a CBO to serve as liaison groups between Gramalaya, Communities and Tiruchirapalli City Corporation. Each SHGs in a slum then federated as SHE - Teams ( A SHE Team comprising of 3 - 5 SHGs members joined as SHE Team members with a maximum of strength of 20 women) SHE - Team - Sanitation and Hygiene Education Teams are formed in every slum to look after the toilet maintenance through pay and use system. These SHE Teams were provided with capacity building, training and Hygiene education by Gramalaya to work for hygiene promotion in their respective villages including community toilets in the areas to be maintained under pay and use system. Every user had to pay Rs.0.50 paise in the year 2000, and now Rs.1 - 2 as user fees. The SHE Team will give a token to ensure how many users in a day and keep books of accounts for the amount collected from the toilet users. The amount collected as user fees are used for meeting the toilet caretaker cleaning charges, purchasing of phenyl and other cleaning materials, replacement of worn out bulbs, damaged doors and other menial works. Major repairs and maintenance were attended by the City Corporation as a part of collaboration arrangement under Urban Slum Intervention Program. To ensure people`s participation, AWASH Committees - Association for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Committees were formed in the urban areas where men, women, youths and elders of the communities are members.. All these committees were federated at the City Corporation-level to make representation of the slum-level water and sanitation issues and submit to the concerned civic authorities as a part of grievance redressal mechanism. These groups are meeting every month in the slum and federation meetings are conducted in a common place to share their experiences, success stories, problems and approaches they have followed to address the issue of water and sanitation issues in the City. As a result of the strong CBOs and Civil Society Organisations formed and nurtured by Gramalaya and supported by the City Corporation, the slums were fully provided with adequate toilet facilities, the urban poor were given hygiene education and motivation to use the toilet facilities and observe hand washing and good hygiene behaviours. To ensure the children in the slums to use the toilets and inculcate the toilet habits, child friendly toilet facilities were designed and constructed by Gramalaya. Wherever space is available in the households, Gramalaya has promoted individual household latrines by laying sewerage lines (UGD) and connected the household toilets for proper disposal of human excreta. Thus from 1989 - 2019, Gramalaya could ensure the systems in place and made the urban slum intervention program as a successfully demonstrated model in India which was then replicated to other parts of India. India`s first open defecation free slum was declared by the City Corporation Commissioner in the year 2002 where Kalmandhai Slum in Ariyamangalam Zone was declared as ODF zone.
Community managed pay and use system ensures sustainable maintenance and usage of the toilet facilities in the slums. The women members who maintain the toilets under pay and use system are getting employment opportunities on a year round basis. CBOs formed in the respective villages are providing hygiene education and other support services including livelihood promotion activities to improve the economic status of the women on a sustainable basis. The children in the slums are serving as Ambassadors of Change by child-to-child approach as well as learning hygiene messages and toilet habits from the childhood stage. The capacity building and training support from Gramalaya and hygiene education by door-to-door using the IEC materials prepared and designed by Gramalaya made every slum dweller aware of the hygiene messages and its importance. As a result of the community mobilisation and training input, community change agents are serving in different areas of the City as peer educators. The community toilets with bathroom facilities, cloth washing platforms, child friendly toilet facilities and hand washing facilities provided in the integrated sanitary complexes made the entire community members to observe good hygiene behaviours and practices. The community toilets for men and women, children friendly toilets and individual household latrines provided in the slums made the area as open defecation free where the people started using the toilet facilities in the slums. The amount collected out of the pay and use system being ploughed back into the communities for meeting other basic amenities like drainage facilities, garbage cleaning, providing additional water supply facilities etc. Cross subsidisation was also a salient feature of the program wherever the pay and use toilets are not yielding good revenue due to less population in the slum, the high earning community toilets giving loan or subsidy to maintain the O & M of the community assets created in the City. The monthly meetings are conducted among the different CBOs at ward-level, slum-level and City-level. enabled the women leaders to exchange ideas for cross learning and sharing of information to follow in their respective slums to make the project a sustainable one. More than 187 slums in the Tiruchirappalli City Corporation were announced as ODF by the City Corporation with the support of Gramalaya. Further, Tiruchirappalli City is leading in the clean city awards as one of the top players. Tiruchirappalli has now become the hub of international sanitation promotion where every week visitors from all over India and from foreign countries for exposure and training purposes. Many articles have been written by famous journalists about Tiruchirapalli Shows the Way, SHE - Create a WAVES of change including publications from WSP-South Asia, World Bank.
Gramalaya started its urban sanitation program in the year 1989 and withdrawn from the project area 5 years ago by forming WAVE - Women`s Action for Village Empowerment wherein all the SHE - Teams, SHGs joined as members and meeting every month to address the issues of water and sanitation in the city. Through toilets, the women got empowerment and the women in the slums are working for a shared vision and goal of clean city and green city. Gramalaya is currently working to promote FSM - Faecal Slum Management with Tamil Nadu Government and City Corporation and moving towards an open discharge free environment wherein the human excreta should not be thrown in the open without treatment. The FSM concept is talking about ODF plus activities in the City including treatment and reuse of human excreta. The concept of community managed toilets and comprehensive approach towards open defecation free City could be replicated and scalable to other cities.