Plan India, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd. launched today the Urban WASH – Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya project across 60 schools in Visakhapatnam, Pune and Dehradun. The project will directly impact over 12,000 children by enabling access to potable water and sanitary conditions and promote good sanitation practices along with effective use and ownership of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure.
Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Commissioner Mr. M. Hari Narayanan and Visakhapatnam District Collector Mr. Praveen Kumar inaugurated the project in the presence of Ambassador Jonathan Addleton, USAID Mission Director to India; Ms. Shubha Sekhar, Director CSR and Sustainability, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia Business Unit; Ms. Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India and Mr. Mohammed Asif, Director Programme Implementation, Plan India. Others present at the event included M. Venkata Krishna Reddy, Visakhapatnam District Education Officer, Baddi Raamu, Chief Functionary, Grama Swarajya Samithi, school children, teachers, school authorities and other partners.
Under the three-year project, Coca-Cola India will provide sanitation facilities such as toilets, sinks, urinals and other physical structures necessary for creating sanitary conditions. USAID and Plan India will support the project through behaviour change communications aimed at educating youth about the benefits of sanitation. By spreading this message, the students will serve as change agents within their communities and around their schools. The project will work closely with the School Education Department, Municipal Corporation and District Administration at all stages, starting with selection and approvals to work in the schools.
Speaking on the occasion, USAID Mission Director Addleton remarked, “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has identified the provision of clean water and sanitation as his top priority. USAID supports this priority by providing technical expertise and sharing best practices that translate into positive change not only for these children and their schools, but also for their families and communities. The launch of the School WASH program today reinforces our shared goal of improving services for India’s low-income urban populations. The specific target is to advance the Government of India’s goal of improvement in the general quality of life of people by promoting cleanliness and hygiene and making India free from open-defection by October 2, 2019. With the right mix of technology, innovation and partnerships, we believe we can transform India into a country where clean water and sanitation is no longer a privilege, but a basic right affordable to all.”
Over 17 million urban households lack adequate sanitation facilities in India and 14.7 million of these lack toilets. The absence of basic sanitation facilities in schools is a key factor in students dropping out, particularly teenage girls.
Commenting on the partnership, Shubha Sekhar, Director CSR and Sustainability, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia, “At Coca-Cola India, we are committed towards building holistic, happy and healthy society. Making positive interventions at schools is the bedrock of that commitment. Support My School initiative has impacted 200,000 school children across 700 plus schools in India so far and this initiative will help us further the cause by reaching out to an additional 12,000 children. We feel proud to partner with such an initiative which will significantly improve infrastructure in schools in these three cities and give conducive environment to school children.”
“It is important that our children are afforded basic necessities so they can focus on their education,” said Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India. “One of the widely recognized reasons for children dropping out of schools is the lack of basic, age-appropriate, gender-and disability-friendly sanitation facilities, clean drinking water and a healthy school environment. This project will ensure improved access to water, hygiene and sanitation by providing separate toilets facilities for girls and boys,” she added.
The project will help school children, teachers, School Management Committees (SMC), functionaries and communities ensure quality WASH practices within their schools. It will also address gender issues with the strong participation of girls in various project activities, such as menstrual hygiene management and advocating for proper facilities in school. This work contributes to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission by creating models that can be replicated by the municipal corporation school WASH improvement programme.