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Is CSR gender insensitive? Corporate India fails to address sanitary needs of teenage, school-going girls

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study on how corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being used for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programme, Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) has revealed that, despite “a vast body of research” showing that individual attitudes are the “key reasons for high open defecation rates” in India, “only 20% of companies reported integrating behaviour change into their programmes.
Titled “CSR in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): What are India’s top companies up to?”, the study has been facilitated by the India Sanitation Coalition (ISC), and carried out by a research team consisting of Anushree Parekh, Poorvaja Prakash, Richa Mukerjee and Dakshini Bhattacharya.
In all 100 companies with the largest CSR budgets on the BSE 500 were selected. Of the 90 companies that supported WASH programmes, 45 were from the heavy engineering and manufacturing sector, 19 from the banking sector, 11 from IT and finance, six from healthcare, five from the fast- moving consumer goods, three from telecommunication industry and one was a media and entertainment undertaking.
Of the 90 companies, 34 were public sector undertakings.
Instead of putting in efforts into behavioural change, the study finds that majority of the companies, 83, supported “hardware” interventions, such as constructing toilets. As for “software” interventions, while only 19 supported programmes relating to behavioural initiatives, awareness creation  in the form of Swacchata Saptah was supported by 14 companies, community ownership by three companies, and capacity building and ecosystem development by two companies each.
The study underlines, “While 18 companies had programmes relating to both aspects, further analysis revealed that 65 companies reported implementing hardware programs without any focus on software.”
Even in hardware, the study says, “Only 15% (13) of companies incorporated the repair and maintenance of new or existing toilets in their CSR programmes.”
Similarly, the study says,” 41% of companies focussed on providing facilities for clean drinking water”, yet “only 19% provided water storage facilities.” Further, “14% or 12 companies reported programs in waste management.”
Most of the solid waste management included “distribution of dustbins, building soak pits and the construction of bio-digester toilets. There was almost no report of activities like emptying pits and septic tanks, transportation to sewage treatment facilities and disposal/reuse of waste”, it says.
Pointing towards gender insensitivity of CSR programme, the study says, “Around 28% of Indian girls do not attend school during menstruation due to the lack of sanitation facilities in schools.” Yet, “CSR support for menstrual management facilities was non-existent.”
Thus, “Only 5% or four companies on the list supported the issue by providing a package of services that could be availed by female students to ensure their regular experience in school remained unhampered through the course of menses.”
Pointing out how CSR interventions neglects urban areas, the study says, “Only Swachhta Saptah (cleanliness week) drives were conducted in urban areas, possibly owing to the fact that they are mainly organised in the vicinity of regional headquarters of companies or offices which tend to be located in urban or semi-urban regions.”
This is happening despite “growing slum populations, with over 50 million people forced to defecate in the open”, and “slums lacking toilet facilities and community toilets rendered unusable due to poor maintenance.”

Comments

Unknown said…
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www.ufgop.org

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