Nepal WASH Blog Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) & Development in Nepal

April 24, 2013

South Asia Regional Campaign on Sanitation

Recently, I got the opportunity to take part in a rally to put pressure on the Government to take the issues of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) more seriously. The rally was part of the South Asia Regional campaign on Sanitation. held on 19 March in Kathmandu.

The campaign was joined by school students, teachers, journalists, representatives from different non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Members of Parliament from countries in the South Asia region and high level government authorities from Nepal. The rally urged the South Asian governments to keep their promises on sanitation. Two members of the UK House of the Lords were also present and walked together with more than thousand other participants to show support for the cause.

I was amazed and encouraged to see a significant number of people with disabilities present at the campaign as people with disabilities are often not represented by issue-based organisations. But WaterAid in Nepal, who co-hosted the campaign, are committed to including people with disabilities in campaign activities. They invited the National Federation for the Disabled, Nepal (NFDN) and the umbrella organisation of all disability public organisations (DPOs) to the events.

“After we got an invitation from the organisers, we circulated the message to many disabled individuals and DPOs as we feel that lack of accessible sanitation facilities is one of the most challenging problems for people with disabilities today,” said Ram Pyari Karki, board member of NFDN. “We want to get this genuine problem noticed by Government and other higher authorities. Thus, bigger participation of people with disabilities is necessary in programmes like this,” she added.

Different NGOs working in the sanitation sector had set up stalls to showcase their programmes and activities as part of the campaign. I found them all interesting to watch, but to me, the most interesting stall was that of Patan CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation). Patan CBR is an NGO working to rehabilitate and develop skills of people with disabilities, mostly children.

“Even though we are not an NGO from WASH sector, we felt that our participation was must because, we have seen disabled people suffer due to lack of toilets. The sanitation campaign like ODF (Open Defecation Free) will not be a hundred percent efficient unless the needs of people with disabilities are taken into consideration,” said Mr Looniva Chitrakar, Director of Patan CBR. The Patan CBR stall had paintings drawn by disabled children representing the difficulties faced by people with disabilities due to lack of accessible sanitation facilities.

I also met Ms. Anjali Agrawal, a wheelchair user. She was a member of the delegation from India to take part in the campaign. Ms Agrawal is a prominent activist in the disability rights sector in India and she has worked with different governmental and non-governmental agencies, including the Ministry of Urban Development , as a consultant for accessible infrastructure design.

She told me that, “the condition of accessibility is similar in Nepal and India. In rural parts of India, there is still a huge problem of lack of accessible sanitation facilities for people with disabilities. But the good news is that bigger cities have slowly started to address this problem. Newer toilets built in the cities are made in such a way that they are suitable for both disabled and non-disabled people. This has happened only because of the collective voice of people with disabilities.”

Ms Agrawal was awarded the Super Idols of the Nations award 2012 by IBN 7 for her achievements in overcoming her disability to help others. She said, “our representation in the development of the country is the only key to solve the problem faced by people with disability. Nothing about us, without us”.

The campaign was held in a Government sports academy. It is very sad to say that the building was not very accessible for those with physical disabilities. There were stairs in the main entrance and the portable ramp which was available was very steep. Outside the venue, people were getting ready to demand for safe and proper sanitation facilities for all, including people with disabilities, but inside I couldn’t find a single toilet accessible by wheelchair.

The post is written by Mr Sagar Prasai – sagarDOTprasain@gmailDOTcom

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