"Project Dignity" On Rural Sanitation In Sundarban's, Eastern India 

Some grim statistics on the rural populations in India (and many other developing nations):

-4 in 10 humans have no toilet facilities.
-90 percent of diarrhea is caused by bad water
-With the use of a simple pit-type composting toilet to isolate human wastes, a 40% 
decrease in cases of diarrhea is seen within a month in areas that now have new toilets.

An estimated 638 million people (58%) in India still defecate in the open or inadequate toilets. According to a study by the UN, each day there are 5000 children and infants dying of diarrhea, which is traced to poor sanitation facilities.

Diarrhea-related deaths can be quickly reduced by at least 30% if these children can access hygienic toilets and uncontaminated water.  Lack of proper sanitation also leads to many infections and tropical diseases among adults, especially rural women. In rural India, girls and women typically try to find privacy in the bushes and often defecate in darkness as there are no household toilets in their homes.  These habits often expose them to snake bites, animal attacks, harassment and even sexual assault. Lack of clean sanitation facilities is especially difficult for women during their menstrual cycles, giving rise to preventable infections and other complications.

Diseases that are caused as a result of lack of sanitation have the consequence of medical bills incurred for their treatment. This naturally has a direct impact on the financial condition of the household.

Project Dignity places Rotary-funded toilets with selected families who will set a good example for their neighbours, to encourage sanitary habits.

Clean water means that children are healthier and able to go to school regularly. This means that mothers are able to work to improve their families’ lives. Private toilets mean that girls and women can have dignity and freedom to care for themselves.
Project Dignity’s Rotary sponsor partners are: our own club (RCAAN) and the Rotary clubs of  Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor West, Chelsea, Ferndale, Milan, Novi, Saline and Ypsilanti. Recently, JAINA - the Jain Associations in North America - has also joined in this project. We are working closely with the Rotary Club of Calcutta Midtown (host club), Inner Wheel Club of Calcutta-Midtown and the Sri Ramakrishna Ashram in Nimpith (Sundarbans, E. India) to select which families will receive toilets, and to assess the impacts. The Ashram, one of India's oldest interfaith agencies, operates 11 schools for boys and girls and also loans bicycles to girls so that they can get to school conveniently and safely. The Ashram also operates several vocational training institutes to train women and men.

Through Project Dignity, Rotary's vital and unique partnership with the Ashram has high potential to:

- Enhance the respect for women,  
- Reduce the incidences of trafficking of at-risk rural girls by raising their self-esteem (via the in-home toilets),  
- Retain adolescent girls to receive higher education in the Ashram's schools, and  
- Provide them a pathway to economically viable rural vocations.
  #07 - Nurjahan Dhali
  #10 - Hamida Gazi
  #31 - Kadita Baiday
  #32 - Rina Baidya
  #33 - Champ Baidya
  #35 - Aloka Mondal
  #38 - Rupali Baidya
  #54 - Anima Sarder
 Inside a "Project Dignity" Toilet