Australian Consul-General in Kolkata visits pioneering Water for Women WASH project

Ms Rowan Ainsworth Australian Consul General in Kolata addressing the special meeting in Bhubaneswar

Ms. Rowan Ainsworth, Australian Consul-General in Kolkata, addressed the special meeting of government, private sector and civil society representatives during her visit to Bhubaneswar. Photo: CFAR.


Akhila Sivadas, CFAR Executive Director, and Dr Madhumita Ray, CFAR Gender & Social Inclusion Lead, report on the visit of Ms. Rowan Ainsworth, Australian Consul-General in Kolkata, to Bhubaneswar where CFAR is leading an innovative Water for Women WASH project.


On 30 August, Water for Women partner the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) hosted the visit of Ms. Rowan Ainsworth, Australian Consul-General in Kolkata, to Bhubaneswar in Odisha where a groundbreaking Water for Women project is ensuring equitable water, hygiene, and sanitation (WASH) facilities for the poorest and most marginalised people living in the city’s urban slums.

Addressing a special meeting of stakeholders representing government, private sector and civil society, Ms. Ainsworth acknowledged the leading work of the Odisha Government - the urban local body of Bhubaneswar – CFAR and the community to improve inclusive WASH services in urban settlements. Expressing concern about women’s access to WASH in public spaces, she emphasized the urgency for safe sanitation in urban centres to ensure women’s health and privacy and uphold the rights and dignity of minority groups including transgender people. “I was thinking how difficult it is when children and women have to use shared facilities and how much worse (it must be) for the trans-community and trans-children,” Ms. Ainsworth said. With one in five people in India living in extreme poverty, and enduring gendered and social barriers such as religious and caste discrimination, Ms. Ainsworth also encouraged all stakeholders to emerge as equal opportunity employers.

Ms. Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director of CFAR, attributed the project’s success to date on forging the right partnerships and starting at a time when the government was very clear on the prioritization of safely managed water and sanitation and interventions needing to be executed with strong community involvement and participation. Mr. Sishir Das, State Advisor for Odisha Livable Habitat Mission “JAGA,” echoed these sentiments and the government’s commitment to integrating urban poor settlements into the city fabric by upgrading basic facilities and services.

Mr. Suvendu Sahoo, Deputy Commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, acknowledged CFAR and the community representatives’ untiring support in strengthening solid and liquid waste management, and that without investing in waste-water management and treatment, the city cannot ensure safe and sustainable sanitation.

Speaking on the challenges faced by transgender people, Meera Parida from the National Council for Transgender Persons, noted that although great strides have been made in ensuring equal opportunities in government jobs such as the police force, not enough thought has been given to how this will be achieved. Meghana Sahoo, who heads the community-based organisation, Transgender Welfare Trust, and is a partner of CFAR agreed that while progress has been made at some levels, there is more work to be done.

Members of Single Window Forum - one of the many ward level institutions established by CFAR through the project – also shared their experiences. Sangeeta, a woman with a disability, spoke about the leading role she now plays in providing affordable desludging services to her community. Susant Sahu, who also has a disability, said that they used to have to cope with piles of uncollected and rotting waste, but now have covered drains, a road, and streetlights.

Water for Women partners with CFAR in reaching some of India’s most at risk people with transformative WASH intervention programs. The project Mobilising, facilitating and replicating socially inclusive WASH initiatives in India’s urban slums, supported by the Australian Government, targets the most vulnerable and marginalised living in urban settlements in Bhubaneswar (Odisha) and Jaipur (Rajasthan). The project aims to directly support up to 96,040 people within these urban settlements, with a strong focus on gender equality and social inclusion in all WASH activities and services.

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