|Jockin Arputam of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and Jack Sims of World Toilet Organization (WTO) spend a day together in Mumbai 25th July 2012.|
Both Jack Sims from World Toilet Organization (WTO) based in Singapore and working in many countries to improve sanitation and NSDF’s Jockin Arputam are passionate about sanitation and toilets and speak of “shit.” Both come from similar humble backgrounds and a childhood of poverty. Jack focuses on improving the image of toilets and those who manage them through a wide range of activities and campaigns, while Jockin works on the access of the urban poor to sanitation, both as a means to strengthen citizenship entitlements of the poor in cities and as a way to engage the city with slum dwellers.
Jack Sims was last in Mumbai at a Dasra event earlier this year in which he and Sheela Patel of SPARC spoke about sanitation, he about bringing the discussion about defecation out of the closet, and she about the huge deficits in cities that make universal access to sanitation very difficult. They again met in Addis at the World Economic Forum meeting in Africa, and over many coffees and breakfasts began to explore the potential for exploring a closer working relationship. Clearly seeing a synergy in the values both Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and WTO bring to this issue internationally and also in India, where WTO is beginning to work on rural sanitation, The need for Jockin and Jack to meet and deepen this engagement seemed the next logical step.
The day began when Jack and two of his colleagues came to Dharavi to meet Jockin and NSDF and Mahila Milan representatives working on sanitation. Both shared stories of their journey that made them passionate about shit, shared their strategies, and discussed how they have made choices about what they do as advocacy, practical applications of what they preach, and where they seek to go.
Then women who have constructed toilets in Dharavi and Mahila Milan representatives who help organize communities took the three visitors to the community toilets being constructed and in different stages from beginning to post-construction. It was raining heavily as this is the monsoon period, but it did not deter the visit, and after the visit the whole group met again to reflect on questions from the visit and what to do moving forward.
Jack had a whole lot of questions, took copious notes, and raised many points for discussions. Clearly urban sanitation challenges were new to Jack and he was fascinated by issues of maintenance, financial models, designs of the toilets and what can be improved, the value of technology, and many other aspects.
Since he had a flight to catch, the meeting ended with a possible list of follow ups. Firstly, that Jack would initiate a write up about what he saw as potential to work together, which Jockin and Sheela would also work on. Jack also got an agreement from Jockin to give ideas and suggestions to explore making the community sanitation process of construction design and delivery more efficient and both agreed that building community ownership of the facility and making it the center of the community was key to the challenge of sustained sanitation accesses.