National

In The Pink Of Health

From women-only pink toilets to multi-utility secure sanitation complexes, the sanitation journey in India is not only proving to be utilitarian but also empowering for women

Sanitation attendants of Garima Grih display their pink uniforms designed by National Institute of Fashion Designing
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Migrant communities and women in Indian urban areas face several sanitation challenges. These challenges include inadequate access to clean toilets, concerns about privacy, water shortages, poor maintenance and issues related to menstrual hygiene, impacting health and dignity. In 2018, PVR NEST launched a groundbreaking initiative in Vikaspuri in Delhi, collaborating with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD), to build the pink toilet.

The success of the first pink toilet in Vikaspuri was so impressive that MCD handed over 20 public toilets to PVR NEST for a pink makeover with significantly improved facilities. These pink centres have been thoughtfully designed according to hospitality standards and provide an array of amenities, including features that enhance accessibility and provisions catering to children’s needs and the availability of essential hygiene products, among others.

The transformation from pink toilets to pink centres marked a significant shift in public sanitation approaches. Unlike conventional public restrooms, often hidden in dark corners, pink centres are prominently located in commercial areas, reflecting a change in the government’s approach to addressing sanitation issues. PVR NEST’s efforts led to its recognition as the programme and sustainability partner by the MCD.

Their key features include sanitary vending machine, breast feeding areas, grooming space, diaper changing space, changing rooms, trained WASH champions, bathing areas (a few locations) and free of cost services in the day time.

This initiative also played a pivotal role in fostering newfound respect for sanitation workers who are typically marginalised and stigmatised. These workers were rebranded as WASH champions and now proudly sport pink uniforms thoughtfully designed by the National Institute of Fashion Design. This rebranding boosted their sense of pride and garnered respect from the community they serve. The capacity-building workshops on interpersonal skills, leadership, self-defence, financial literacy, digital literacy, menstrual hygiene, DIY plumbing and operations by industry experts contribute to their holistic growth and development.

The initiative got a shot in the arm with Reckitt’s community workers gulabi didis further training the WASH champions to propagate good practices on health and hygiene.

Test of Resilience

The year 2020 was one of uncertainty due to the pandemic. With the nationwide lockdowns, cinemas were asked to shut down, unprecedented in the history of PVR Cinemas. This had a detrimental effect on PVR NEST, leading to resource constraints, limitations on movement and gatherings, and a suspension of ongoing CSR initiatives. Despite these obstacles, PVR NEST continued to serve the vulnerable segments of society through support from like-minded organisations.

As the hygiene partner for PVR Cinemas, Reckitt worked towards ensuring for visitors a safe and hygienic movie experience in preparation for the cinema’s reopening. As a reliable health partner, Pink Centres encouraged a shift in behaviour and the adoption of recommended hygiene practices among users.

Guided by Reckitt and the National Covid Task Force, the attendants followed standard operating procedures, allowing these centres to continue operations, even during the second wave of Covid-19, when most public facilities shut down. The highest ever footfall of over 3.5 lakh users was achieved during this period. As a result, it earned recognition as a model Covid-compliant centre.

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Deepa Menon is the recipient of the Mahatma Award for Leadership in Social Responsibility, Social Good and Impact 2023

Public Health Infrastructure Par Excellence

The success of Pink Centres has expanded the vision of PVR NEST, transforming its mission to create safe urban spaces that cater to a diverse population. This evolution led to Garima Grih, a comprehensive and inclusive multi-utility secure sanitation complex.

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Garima Grih addresses residents’ sanitation and hygiene needs in three camps in Delhi: Jawahar Camp, Harijan Camp and Chuna Bhatti Camp in Kirti Nagar, where people have been living in unhealthy conditions. It  is fully accessible, with ramps and amenities that cater to persons with disabilities (PWD), senior citizens and children. Apart from conventional Indian and western toilets, it features a PWD-friendly toilet, changing rooms, bathing and handwashing areas, a child washing area, breastfeeding and diaper changing rooms as well as sanitary napkin vending machines.

In addition to the toilet facilities, Garima Grih houses a common services centre known as Jan Suvidha Kendra, offering digital services. A Women Empowerment Centre provides skill training to women in tailoring and stitching, beauty and grooming, equipping them with essential skills for livelihood. There is also a library for children, a sheltered outdoor area that serves as a resting space for women and a venue for workshops.

So far, over 223 women and youth have enrolled in the training programmes. The centre’s remarkable impact was nationally recognised when PVR NEST received the prestigious CSR Journal Excellence Awards in 2022.

To assess the effectiveness of its safety and protection programs, PVR NEST collaborated with Lady Irwin College, Delhi University, to conduct a social impact assessment (SIA) in pink centres and Garima Grih. The SIA report revealed that 92% of users felt safe and comfortable accessing these new-age facilities.

PVR NEST has initiated a transformative journey by creating opportunities for 100 women to acquire market-driven skills, enabling them to join the workforce.

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The Shakti Cart, a unique Made in India mobile livelihood cart, allows these women to sell products they have learned to create through skilling at the Tailoring and Stitching Centre, making them more marketable.

The “sanitation to skilling” programme aims to equip underprivileged women and youth with essential life skills, addressing their daily survival challenges and the lack of resources to access formal vocational education.

Beneficiaries are drawn from users of the sanitation facilities at Pink Centres and Garima Grih. The positive transformation of these women has also had a ripple effect, raising the entire community’s aspirations to learn new skills.

The social significance and impact of Garima Grih has motivated PVR NEST to establish more such centres.

The foundation of Garima Grih is rooted in a deep understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), contributing to the fulfilment of nine out of the 17 SDGs. It also aligns with the government’s Smart Cities Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation 2.0 (AMRUT 2.0), and the National Skill Development Mission.

Deepa Menon is founder, PVR NEST, PVR Limited.

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