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Say No to Open Defecation – Filmy Expressions and Pune Walkathon!


Say No to Open Defecation – Filmy Expressions and Walkathon!

Project Partners: UNICEF India

Execution of all campaign workshops by: PROTSAHAN India Foundation


September 29, 2013

Gosavi Basti slum cluster in Pune (at Karve Nagar) is an interesting place, because its resident children and communities comprise some of the most enthusiastic migrant populations you will ever meet. Every Sunday, when children assemble to participate in workshop classes by our youth team, they do not come to wallow in any grimy grievances, but come excited and full of ideas, ever more ready to learn on a newer issue. It has taken our team months together to get the education initiative up and running well in Karve Nagar slums. So on one such Sunday, when Protsahan began its workshops on ‘Say No to Open Defecation project’, initiated by UNICEF India (follow hashtag: #SayNo2OD) with the young children and future changemakers from within the community, all involved, were prepared for an enlightening session. And needlessly to say, no one was disappointed!

The session started with the ice breakers, talking about the importance of clean toilets, and what drives people to defecate in the open in the first place, the gender roles, the situations that lead to its presence in the first place. Every group discussion of this sort with the tiny tots often elevates itself to a story-telling position, as we have seen, and it was the case this day too – most of the children had some story or anecdote to relate. As we swapped tales, we touched upon the issue of everyday hygiene, from trimming nails to washing hair, to washing up after using the toilet. Geeta, an 11 year old girl from the community, narrated,

हमारी बस्ती के सुलभ बिलकुल साफ़ नहीं हैं ।  बहुत गंदगी और मक्खी होती हैं । दीदी हम मिलके एक पिक्चर बनाते हैं और इन सब को सिखायेंगे, बड़ा मज़ा आयेगा!

[The community toilets in our slum cluster are not clean at all. They are extremely dirty with flies hovering around. Didi, we should together create a film (for which LMB Productions is our partners) to teach the community the menace of dirty toilets. It will be so much fun!]


The basti has a few community bathrooms Sulabh complexes (Community latrines), but they are not cleaned regularly, and even if they are, they are done very sloppily. The children concurred that convincing a lot of the open defecators is going to be a tough task because of this, but they were up for it. As Vartika Gupta, pointed out later,

Some of them had the hilarious idea that they could chase the offenders the next time they decide to squat in the open, and shame them into not returning!  But nevertheless the thoughts had started brewing!!! This was indeed the starting point.

Over a billion people worldwide defecate in the open.  This amounts to almost one in five people in developing countries not using any toilets. In India the figures are even more shocking. The discussion on the issue had to be dealt through innovative ‘understanding by doing’ method which would evolve to be a precursor to a film-making session with the children in the subsequent workshops in the coming weeks. Protsahan aims to drive the project through a short film that the children will script, shoot and present, thereby most creatively engaging their audience (over 3000 bastiwalas/community dwellers). The discussion session yielded the crucial idea that the film shouldn’t just talk about the issue in general, but also show the sorry state of the toilets to drive a stronger point. The children were told the views of the UN deputy secretary-general, Jan Eliasson, which were,

Every Rupee that we invest [in sanitation], helps get five times the return, when we add this element of enlightened self-interest, it’s such a great investment in the health not only for individuals but also society.

On board as film-making partners with us were LMB Productions. (LMB: Let’s Make Better, how apt!). The young team came in full force and made the initial inroads into understanding what the film should be about. More stories flowed, of course!

A very important learning that was shared with the parents of the children attending the workshop that day included,

Handwashing with soap could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention.

The discussions continued even when the sunny skies clouded over, and rainwater started straining our temporary tarpaulin cover. The consensus was to write a story that combined all aspects of the problem, and that it had to all come from the kids. Not one of them appeared intimidated by the task at hand. Good start indeed! 🙂

October 6 and 13 , 2013

Maitreyee, Gaurav, and Jayaraj were the three LMB volunteers who steered the film-making session on this Sunday. Last few weeks they have been orienting the children and preparing them on the issue. But before the cameras were whipped out for the kids, Vartika didi held a small discussion with the group, handing them pieces of paper, and some crayons, for them to draw  the stories they wanted to tell through the film. The kids were inspired by their previous interactions with volunteers, and drew heaps of garbage and fecal matter, establishing the dry and wet waste problem rampant in the basti. They debated amongst each other on what degree of negative and positive imagery the film should depict. The LMB team helped in developing these thoughts further, suggesting angles and spots around the basti to be included in the film. The children got to explore camera settings, and took some preliminary photographs. The transition from stills to film will begin for them soon in the coming weeks.

A short session marking the onset of Global Hand Washing day was also marked in the community on October 13th (Sunday) for the upcoming Global Handwashing Day on Oct 15th.


Vartika Gupta, Pune Chapter Chief, Protsahan India Foundation, showing the correct handwashing technique with Ibrahim, a 11 year old boy from the community, to approximately 70-75 young girls and boys. She explained how washing hands well, reduce the typhoid cases by about 42%!


Videos were shown to the children, so that the topic could be understood in more clear terms. Most important of which included:


A Walkathon followed this brainstorming and handwashing demonstration, and the ideas slowly started to take better shape, as the understanding progressed. The children, bare feet and in mood of the Navratri festival, were unmindful of the stray garbage on the lanes of the basti, and enthusiastically devised film plans – however, our team tried to synergise the auspiciousness of the Navatri occasion with the importance of staying clean and washing hands becoming even more pertinent! As Sonal Kapoor, Founder Director, Protsahan, pointed out,

In India, religious connotations and vernacular references sometimes help understand the issue at hand even more better than plain monologues!

The children wanted to show the sorry state of the narrow pathways of the entire basti; they wanted to show the dirty toilets; and they wanted to show just how difficult they think it is to find one good toilet in their slum to the elders. The children had started understanding the issue on which they had drawn, held banners and walked in narrow lanes and now were beginning to develop a short film, all in a period of a month’s time!


The Walkathon will continue next week, a dose of it to give it more and more steam each proceeding Sunday, to help the young film-makers gather more visual inspiration for what’s to come!


The coming weeks are even more exciting as street events mobilizing more people and children from streets and slums are being planned at Delhi, Pune and Mumbai on the issue of Open Defecation. Stay tuned!

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Comments (1)

What a brilliant initiative! It is indeed heart warming to see people strive to make children’s lives and the whole education system a better place. Do keep posting.

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