A voice for the marginalised creates accessible handwashing for the community - including all

A man on a large yellow wheelchair trike is washing his hands at a handwashing station next to a wall with brightly coloured street art

In Swami Basti, Jaipur, India, Ramesh is proud to show off the newly installed, accessible handwashing station that he, his family and entire community can benefit from everyday to maintain their hand hygiene - important for their health always, but particularly with the threat of COVID-19 never far from their minds.


Swami Basti is a poor community in Jaipur, home to many vulnerable people and households who have suffered disproportionately due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 22 per cent of the world’s poorest people have a disability.[i] Disability and poverty are often linked as people living in poverty have a higher chance of acquiring a disability due to lack of medical care, poor nutrition, violence, unsafe housing, and getting injured at work.[ii]


Ramesh, who lives with a disability will not only benefit from this accessible foot operated handwashing station, he also played an important role in its creation!


Through their Water for Women project, supported by the Australian Government, Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) and RTI have been working to reach some of India's most at-risk people. In the face of COVID-19, this work has taken on a new urgency.


Part of their activities involves the set up of community forums which represent a diverse mix of community members who play a role in addressing the diverse WASH needs of the community (there are male forums and female forums, and each forum also includes members from marginalised groups such as those who live with a disability or from the transgender community). Ramesh is an active master trainer and member of the male forum, who educates community members on techniques of handwashing, which he learnt at a communication workshop conducted in August.


Ramesh, and members from the Single Window Forum and Male Forum set up the facility after the training, which now benefits 45 households including four people with a disability.


Ramesh's wife, Saroj also has a disability and with two children to take care of and water accessibility extremely limited for them at times, this handwashing station has been an important addition for the family and the community as a whole.




[i] World Health Survey. (2002-2004). Geneva: World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://who.int/healthinfo/survey/en

[ii] Groce, N. (2004). HIV/AIDS & Disability: Capturing Hidden Voices. Global Survey on HIV/AIDS and Disability. Connecticut: The World Bank/Yale University. Retrieved from: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DISABILITY/Resources/Health-and-Wellness/HIVAIDS.pdf

Pictured:  Ramesh, who was involved in the setting up of the foot operated facility is seen washing his hands at the facility (Centre for Advocacy and Research)

There are more than one billion people living with some form of disability. 80 per cent of them live in developing countries, and, globally, persons with disabilities experience disproportionate poverty. COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities faced by persons with disabilities. These include disparities in stigma and discrimination, access to health-care services, the digital divide, social protection and the risk of violence and abandonment - especially of those living in long- term care and institutionalized settings.

Women and girls, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, older persons and other marginalised populations are further exposed to intersecting risks. The pandemic can be an impetus to find new solutions for building more sustainable, inclusive and equal societies. Many hard-earned gains are now at a crossroad. It is, thus, imperative that disability-inclusion be an integral part of crisis response, recovery and “building back better.”



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