My Story: My Aim Is To Build Toilets In Rural India Because Sanitation Is Dignity

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My Story: 'My Aim Is To Build Toilets In Rural India Because Sanitation Is Dignity'

Atul Bhide has been an entrepreneur for the last 25 years. His life took a turn when he joined the Rotary Club of Thane Hills in 2000 and started working on various community service projects. Till date, he along with his team has constructed 792 individual green toilets under the ‘Right-To-Go’ campaign, having many positive and sustainable impacts on the environment, health, and dignity of women.

I am an entrepreneur and a 'Rotarian' since 2000. To begin with, when I was invited to join Rotary (an international service organisation), my first immediate intention was to build new connections and friends. But with time, I became more engrossed in meeting community needs and gradually started myself involving in small community service projects, but the major shift came when I was chosen as president of my club around eight years back.

I am inspired by my father, who is also helping the community at large by working with over 1,000 women Self-Help Groups. I thought of leaving a similar impact on the lives of thousands of people in the villages, under his leadership as the club president in 2013-14.

During that time, I made a trip to more than 110 villages in Maharashtra's Thane district. There, I came across 2-3 ideas that I thought were the requirements of these people. All these visits gave me a clear indication of the need for toilets—that strongly came from women.

'Right To Go' Campaign

I, along with my friends from 'Rotary club of Thane Hills', talked to the people, informed them about the sanitation practices, and presented the idea of constructing toilets for them under a Rural Sanitation project in 2014– 'Right to Go'.

The campaign aims to construct individual green toilets along with training for behavioural change for better sanitation and hygiene across four villages – Sogav, Nandwal, Dahigao, and Aghai. Till date, our team has constructed 792 individual green toilets that have more than 5000 direct beneficiaries. It also has many positive and sustainable impacts on the environment, health, and dignity of women. It has helped prevent over 5000 people from relieving themselves in the open, every day.

Due to the non-availability of toilets at home, everyone needed to walk at least two km searching for 'safe' space. Also, women and senior citizens need to 'wait' till someone could accompany them for their safety on the way. Because of all these reasons, many times, women and senior citizens prolong their urge to relieve themselves, resulting in health issues.

Also, people succumb to bites of insects and serpentine animals like snakes in the bushes. All these problems were solved by the Right-To-Go campaign, resulting in better health of family members.

Women are vulnerable to sexual assault by the antisocial elements of society. A toilet at home stopped all these incidents.

Now, my future work is to do the gap work. I aim to work for those villages where the government is somehow unable to reach due to the limitation of their records or other factors. It is the responsibility of civil society also to address the need of our fellow Indians. My commitment continues to work for these villages, but moreover, it's all about habit and behavioural changes. My team and I will continue to do this behavioural change-work, supported by the construction of toilets.

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Editor : Palak Agrawal
Creatives : Tashafi Nazir

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