Hand-washing device for Rs 35
When Dr. Pawan observed that slum-dwellers in Gadchiroli, Maharasthra, were unhygienic, he created a hand-washing device for just Rs 35, saving many villagers.
In 2008, Dr. Pawan was among seven students chosen for a two-year fellowship programme at Nirman’s Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH), in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra. It stoked students to work in places where rural communities were affected by issues such as water management. As he was a doctor, he decided to work in health.
He was astounded that the villagers were haunted by several diseases, caused by reasons such as dirty water. He studied the 64 families living there and found that just six families used soap for washing hands. The others had soap at home, but just did not use it for cleaning, only for beautification.
The sad fact was that many infants were dying of diarrhoea, which worried him. Just washing hands could save so many. At just this point, he heard about the Tippy Tap concept in New Zealand. It just called for a few sticks, a string and a soap to start a low-cost washing device.
For six months, Dr. Pawan worked on the device. The challenges were many, for at first, goats would eat the soap, or birds would mess it up. The thread rubbed against it and children got their pants soiled. Patiently, he worked on the design as a physician in a local hospital and worked on it in the evenings. Finally, he managed to design Nirmal, the Indian washing device.
Next, he had to convince the villagers to use his device. With the help of the school children, he put it up in the primary school of Kudakwahi village. That helped the children to develop a sense of ownership towards the device and co-develop it by giving suggestions to improve it.
To help the children imbibe the importance of washing their hands, he taught them a simple song in which they would boo if the other’s hands were dirty and shout ‘yay’ to those who did not wash. He even managed to teach them the WHO guidelines for hand-washing, by composing a fun Marathi song that incorporated the steps necessary for it. A cleanliness army called ‘Nirmaldoots’ was set up.
The next step was to involve the elders. At every pooja, Pawan would set up Nirmal and ask the village women to pray to it in front of the entire community, so that Nirmal became part of the entire culture.
Having set up 83 Nirmal devices in 16 villages across Maharastra, Pawan has left the area. However, his message still lives on.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.