India, Tamil Nadu: housing and toilets for women self-help groups

Photo: IVDP

An Indian NGO that provides housing and toilets for women’s groups was a finalist in the 2010 World Habitat Awards. Established in 1979, the Integrated Village Development Project (IVDP) mobilises poor women to form self-help saving groups (SHG).

Some 6,700 groups have been established do far, each of which is made up of 12 to 20 disadvantaged women. IVDP has sourced affordable credit lines for the members of the saving groups, enabling the construction of 24,705 houses and 17,000 toilets. Awareness-raising campaigns help improve wider vulnerable groups’ understanding of water, sanitation and personal hygiene practices.

IVDP works in the Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts, home to about 2.8 million, where between 60 and 80 per cent of all illness is due to inadequate water and sanitation. The women’s SHGs that IVDP has helped set up have so far saved over INR 1.3 billion (US$ 27.7 million) or US$ 230 per person and accessed loans worth INR 12.4 billion (US$ 265 million) or US$ 2,208 per person.

The houses and toilets which IVDP has helped to build, are made of local brick and cement. A toilet costs between INR 5,000 and INR 10,000 (US$ 107 – US$ 215).

Large scale campaigns raise the awareness of SHG members and their families on issues relating to water, sanitation and personal hygiene practices. Toilet exhibitions have been held in marketplaces to motivate people to construct and use toilets. Training is given to local masons on low cost technologies to upgrade their housing and toilet construction skills. Educational activities include running an IT training centre and supporting nursery- and primary-level education of tribal children.

Photo: IVDP

SHG members can access loans for housing and toilet construction from SHG savings, loans from four national banks, and bulk group loans via IVDP. Sixty per cent of the construction cost is usually borrowed and the remaining 40 per cent comes from savings. Households pay for labour in money and/or in kind. Bank interest rates are between 10.0 and 12.5 per cent over a five-year period.

Homeless International supports IVDP’s work through grants and bank guarantees. The grants cover part of IVDP’s core costs and enable it to expand the SHG network. It costs IVDP INR 6,276 (US$136) to support each new SHG during its first year or until it becomes self sustaining. SHG contributions also support IVDP running costs through its membership fees and the fees charged on bank loans to the SHG network. This fund is used for strengthening and expanding the network.

According to IVDP, housing and toilet construction has provided work for local masons and to created employment for 119 new masons. The NGO says it has arranged for INR 40 million (US$ 867,000) in discounts provided by private companies.

Women have greater privacy with the construction of individual household toilets and sanitation has improved as a result of the awareness raising. Health indicators have improved, with a survey in 2008 showing that 94 per cent of SHG members did not experience any water- or sanitation-related sickness. Household income on medical expenses has been reduced.

To date, 47,250 water filters and millions of sanitary towels have been purchased by SHG members at discounted prices, improving health indicators and raising awareness of the dangers of using more traditional methods.

Lessons learned include:

  • Houses and toilets should not be built during the rainy season as this interrupts the construction process. The construction should be completed within a stipulated timescale.
  • Awareness raising activities must be undertaken with SHG members before the start of construction, in order to retain their motivation and to improve their sanitary practices.
  • Loans should be made available to SHG members at regular intervals and not in one lump sum. Stringent loan repayment measures must be enforced to ensure good repayment rates and future availability of loans.
  • Repayment periods should be between two to five years both for toilet and housing loans.

Related web site: Integrated Village Development Project (IVDP)

Source: World Habitat Awards 2010

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