Parul Sharma l Palladium - Feb 13 2024
Women-Led Community Toilets in India Win Urban Innovation Award

“This recognition has shown that health, women’s empowerment, and economic development brought together as a transformative force can uplift communities and build a brighter future for all,” says Anoop Phanse, Director of Palladium India.

In December of 2023, Pimpri Chinchwad was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor at the Secretariat of Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation held in Guangzhou, China, for its initiative Navi Disha ( “New Direction” in Hindi), a women-led community toilets model.

The project was one of 193 cities and regions from 54 countries up for the award. The selection process was guided by a technical committee of international experts, closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA), and were looking for innovation, effectiveness, context, and replicability.

India, with 60 million people grappling with the lack of proper sanitation facilities, faces a significant challenge. Pimpri-Chinchwad, a city with a population exceeding 2 million, mirrors this national dilemma, with 8% residing in vulnerable slums facing substandard living conditions. This poses a direct threat to community health, especially for women who face heightened risks of infections.

The Navi Disha initiative, initiated by the Urban Local Body of PCMC, marked a turning point.

Under this endeavour, 40 community toilets were installed in 71 slums throughout the city. Palladium India, through PCMC’s City Transformation Office, partnered with women’s groups and the community to develop the operational model for Navi Disha.

“Our goal was to provide sustainable and clean sanitation facilities with community stakeholders at the forefront. Uplifting women and promoting social entrepreneurship were also the core objectives of this project,” says Phanse.

More than 400 women are actively involved, overseeing 40 toilets equipped with a total of 862 seats. Over 30,000 people gain access to hygienic and secure toilet facilities each day. The positive impact generated by these women has sparked significant interest from other women’s groups, prompting them to help operate the remaining community toilets.

“Navi Disha offers end-to-end support to the women’s groups, including training, capacity building, and assistance with getting started,” explains Amit Patjoshi, CEO of Palladium India. “What's unique is that the community is part of the decision-making, and we have established a monitoring and implementation framework.”

He adds that ensuring the toilets stay clean is a big focus, as it can not only impact health and hygiene but contributes to economic development.
Following the award win, PCMC aims to establish over 120 Community Toilets, which will involve employing more than 1,200 women managing a total of 2,062 seats by June 2024, as part of the Navi Disha program.

“This recognition is a tribute to our community’s dedication to transformative urban solutions. The Navi Disha initiative, driven by the efforts of women’s groups, exemplifies our commitment to inclusive and sustainable development,” says Shekhar Singh, commissioner, PCMC. “We plan to scale up the Navi Disha initiative to engage more women and increase the beneficiaries by three-fold in the coming months.”

And this is just the beginning.

The city also wants to support women’s Self Help Groups to be vocal advocates for their communities, actively participating in and influencing all forthcoming initiatives. A commitment to providing alternative livelihood opportunities for women through various PCMC-led drives is underway, along with pioneering a model for women-led Sustainable Solid Waste Management with the ambitious goal of achieving a zero-waste neighbourhood.

Learn more about the project or contact for more.