RYTHM Foundation promotes sanitation and hygiene in rural India
The World Health Organization estimates that four per cent of all deaths in the world are caused by diseases resulting from contaminated drinking water sources, lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices. In recent years, a lot of effort has been made to promote awareness of the importance of handwashing and proper hygiene, especially in rural areas.
Proper handwashing requires access to soap and clean water and this is a major problem in poor communities due to a lack of awareness and financial capacity to purchase soaps regularly.
To address this issue and to bridge the gap, RYTHM Foundation has partnered with Parinaama Development Foundation to support their low-cost soap production unit in rural Bihar, India.
The strategy involves understanding the interlinkages of the multiple social factors that impact health. Phase I of the project began with training women and establishing the soap-making unit, while phase II began with the production of soaps for the local community coupled with a social-behaviour change communications campaign.
“In the first six months of the project, we had trained over 35 women on soap production,” Parinaama’s founder and director Dr Madhavi Panda said.
To ensure better success in promoting behavior change, Dr Madhavi’s team carried out several campaigns that were a mix of interpersonal communication, door-to-door visits, stickers, posters, leaflets, demonstrations and discussions at different village events.
“The target audience comprised more than 700 women, adolescents and children with the key message focused on the importance of handwashing with soap, aspects of hygiene and sanitation,” she said.
The soap making unit comprises four women who were a part of the training programme and employed now by Parinaama on a full-time basis.
The team engages in the production of low-cost, herbal soaps weighing 60 gms, for sale and distribution in the local community. Over 2800 soaps have been manufactured and sold till now, including 1200 soaps that are distributed free of cost.
“We have also been experimenting with expensive varieties using goats’ milk and shea butter base, weighing 100-150 grams. The aim is to sell these commercially to hotels and larger stores for the sustainability of the unit and economic empowerment of the women,” Dr Madhavi said.
She said the establishment of the soap unit in the village made a great difference as the people in the area were witnessing soap-making for the first time in their lives.
“The people we reached out to through the campaigns are extremely poor, for whom even Rs. 15 (20 cents) per soap was very difficult to afford,” Dr. Madhavi said.
The door-to-door campaigns with the distribution of leaflets in the Hindi language has impacted the community in a big way. The free distribution of soaps helped to initiate change in at least a few households.
“The willingness to change, is one of the biggest challenges, and we need to engage in a slow but consistent process to get them to adapt and adopt,” she added.
RYTHM Foundation is proud to support this project which reaches out to the poor and underserved communities in rural India. We hope this can promote a better understanding of hygiene and clean practices among the community.