As World Toilet Day is marked on November 19, 2016, Amrita is excited to announce that two villages in Bihar, adopted by A​mrita ​SeRVe for sustainable development​​, have now been declared Open Defecation Free!

Open defecation is one of the greatest public health challenges facing India today, and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham's Women's Empowerment: Sanitation ​project uses a unique approach. Technology and life skills training are the keys to enroll village women to build and maintain their own toilets.

In the villages of ​Hadiabad and Ratanpur, the secret to success was the social awakening inspired by the sanitation and hygiene committee led by women. The team set up and trained a 12-member, all-women team, who went on to inspire the community to take collective action to have toilets constructed and teach women about sanitation awareness.

Women are the keepers of vulnerable populations; the work has taught that when you empower women, you empower the whole community. After enough toilets had been constructed to serve the entire community, in presence of block officials and other authorities, all the villagers pledged to not defecate in the open. Behavioural changes are tough, but thanks to the sanitation and hygiene committee’s continued efforts, women are embracing a community-led sanitation approach to an age-old problem. This ripple effect is extending to reach more rural villages all over India with the vision to end open defecation and to make sanitation available for all.

In addition to the WE:Sanitation project, last year Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Chancellor pledged​ a billion rupees ($14.6 million USD) to build toilets and end open defecation in Kerala. So far, Amrita has constructed 2,000 toilets to serve people who previously had no access to a private toilet.

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