It Takes a Vil­lage

WIN­NER: Swades Foun­da­tion WHY IT WON: For bring­ing san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene to ru­ral In­dia, es­pe­cially for women and school­go­ing girls

India Today - - SAFAIGIRI AWARDS - —Suhani Singh

IN 2004, RONNIE SCREWVALA pro­duced Swades, a film in which Shah Rukh Khan played a NASA sci­en­tist who gives up his cushy life in the US to live in and help a vil­lage in In­dia. Ronnie, with wife Za­rina Screwvala, is do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar with their Swades Foun­da­tion, whose mis­sion is to em­power a mil­lion ru­ral In­di­ans ev­ery five years, with wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion be­ing one of the four key fields for its com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes.

In the six years since its found­ing, Swades has done work in ar­eas of ed­u­ca­tion, health and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, cov­er­ing nearly 2,513 ham­lets in seven blocks of Ma­ha­rash­tra’s Raigad dis­trict. Their work in san­i­ta­tion is in keep­ing with the gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion of an open defe­ca­tion-free In­dia. “Our mis­sion was that all of the 120,000 house­holds we work with should have a toi­let at­tached. Each of the 22,000 toi­lets we’ve built in the past four years is be­ing used, as the com­mu­nity feels it owns it,” say the founders. Swades has con­structed toi­lets in 22,442 homes, im­pact­ing 96,500 peo­ple and set up com­mit­tees to en­sure their proper us­age and main­te­nance. “The is­sues of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion are con­nected and we have im­ple­mented both si­mul­ta­ne­ously,” say Ronnie and Za­rina. Their work has also im­pacted 47,000 stu­dents in 156 schools with 20 or more stu­dents, who now have ac­cess to drink­ing wa­ter and toi­lets. This will, in turn, re­sult in fewer girls drop­ping out of schools, re­duc­tion in cases of dis­eases and pri­vacy and se­cu­rity for women and the el­derly. Swades’s big­gest strength, how­ever, lies in its thou­sands of vol­un­teers and over 300 em­ploy­ees en­sur­ing that toi­lets are no longer a ‘lux­ury’ for the priv­i­leged.

NOTH­ING TO LOOS Ronnie and Za­rina Screwvala

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