Home > Uncategorized > Study on Gender Responsive Public Services for Young Urban Women; Access to public toilets for young urban girls in Bhubaneswar Smart city of India

The quest for a clean India his begun. As the country undertakes its “Swacch” journey, there seem to be numerous issues, ground realities and expectations of the various stakeholders that need to be brought to the forefront and included in the Central government’s developmental agenda. With the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), the issue of urban sanitation has been brought to the forefront  and  is being discussed in important forums. Numerous steps are being taken to help Urban Local Bodies and State governments to fast track their journey towards becoming “Swachh cities’

However a lot needs to be done to meet the targets within the Mission period of October 2019. Under this context, we tried to evaluate the ground reality of Smart city Bhubaneswar and how far it has travelled in its journey to become Swacch city Bhubaneswar within the Mission period of October 2019.

The study titled “Gender Responsive Public Services for Young Urban Woman Access to public toilets for young urban girls in 6 cities of India” specifically aims to portray the requirements of young women from low income group using the public toilets

Odisha’s has an urban population of 7,003,656 as per the 2011 census of which Bhubaneswar has a population of 8,37,737. At present, there are 60 functional public toilets under the Municipality i.e only one PT for every 14000 people.

. The objectives of the study is 

  • To access the status of public toilets for low income young urban women
  • To understand needs, demands and expectations of low-income young urban women around public services
  •  To assess gender responsiveness of policies and programmes on public toilets

The research, methodology and design includes both quantitative and qualitative data to conduct analysis and study the availability, accessibility and affordability of public toilets assessed from the perspective of low-income young urban women. The study has been conducted on young women in age group of 15-29 years residing in slum communities where Action Aid works. Surveys were undertaken in four urban slums of Bhubaneswar- Banafula Basti, Ishaneswar Basti, Mandap Basti and Patharbandha Slum.

The data collection tools comprised observation of 4 public toilets, documentation of 7 human stories, user feedback from 20 users, survey of 50 UYW and their family members using structured questionnaires in which respondents were asked about their day to day experience and problems faced while accessing public toilets.

In addition to the above, open interviews of Municipal officials, community leaders, and Urban Local Bodies and management staff of public toilets were taken to understand the diverse issues surrounding public toilets and their functioning.

The survey was conducted in May 2018 by  CCWD & VIEWS and was compiled as per the Action Aid national study guidelines. Based on the above data analysis, here are the major findings:


  • 18% of the urban young women are accompanied by mothers and relatives to the toilet during night and early morning hours, as they fear to go alone.
  • Almost all the supervisors(100%)  are male, causing inconvenience for the young women
  •  48% of the respondents said that there is no staff to clean and maintain the toilet
  •  88% of the respondents are of the view that there is no security guard appointed around the toilet to provide safety to the women.
  • 54% of the women respondents do not feel safe to use the toilet, whereas 46% are of the view that it is safe enough for use.
  • 46% of women faced harassments while using the toilets in the community. The women shared that they were eve teased and passed filthy comments from onlookers and bystanders on their way to the toilets.
  • Health
  • Quantity of water consumed in a day:28% of the women respondents consumed considerably low amount of water. Almost  22% of respondents specifically outlined that they avoid drinking water to stop their urge to use the toilet and the need to control their bladder.
  • 30% of the respondents said there were enough reasons for spread of UTI  and other infections due to lack of cleanliness and hygiene practices
  • Facilities available in the community toilet:In context of facilities available in the community toilet, 34% of women respondents opined that there is a scarcity of water as the tap water remains open even after the use of the toilet. 29% of the respondents feel that in the public toilet the lightning system is very dim and it is not well lighted. The lack of dustbin, soap and sanitary napkin make it worse.
  • 68% of the respondents reported non-availability of mug and bucket which is very essential and a pre-requisite for using the toilet. It also makes the entire practice very unhygienic and leads to wastage of water as it is left turned on with water flowing from the tap.
  • 92% of the young women do not change their sanitary napkin while outside home because it is not available in public toilets. This affects their menstrual hygiene.
  • 96% of the young women respondents said that there is no provision of sanitary napkin in their school/college.
  • 36% of the girls do not find dustbins inside these toilets to dispose of their sanitary napkins.
  • 67% of the young women wash their hands with soap after using toilets, while 33% do not follow such practice.
  • 70% of the respondents have not gone through any session on safe hygienic practices especially, menstrual hygiene
  •  Cleanliness
  • 52% of the respondents expressed that the toilets are not regularly cleaned. Sometimes the community requests BMC staff to clean the toilets.
  • 66% of the respondents clearly highlighted that the public toilets do not have proper water facility and sometimes the women have to carry water with them for use.
  • Public toilets in Community
  • There are separate toilets for male and female but none for transgenders in the surveyed slums.
  • Most of the public toilets are available within 500 metres distance from the community
  • 74 % of the respondents do not have toilets in their house
  • 62% of the respondents take around 3 minutes to  reach public toilets
  • 64% of the women pay to use the toilets but there are some poor women who are unable to pay for the same due to their financial crisis. These women continue to opt for open defection and cover their face with cloth to hide their identities
  • Around 36% of the users do not pay for the toilets as there is no such system of ‘pay and use’. It impacts the cleanliness and maintenance of these PTs.
  • The ‘pay and use’ toilets generally work well as the user fee is collected immediately and a person is present to supervise it.
  • The women are required to stand in queues for using public toilet. Almost, 66% of the women said that they wait around 0-15 minutes for their turn. Similarly 31% of the women said they waited for 16 to 30 minutes for their turn. Thus, there is a need for more number of toilets in the survey area.
  • The timings of toilet use is restricted, as the toilet open at 4 a.m to 12 p.m and then from 3 pm to 10 pm. thus, the use is restricted in the sense that most of the informal workers return to their homes during lunch and  after 10 p.m and may want to use the toilet.
  • 42% of the women respondents feel that it is not safe to use the toilet infrastructure, while 16% are of the view that it is safe to use the toilet infrastructure such as buckets and mugs. The women respondent emphasized the need for toilet ceiling, street lights, proper doors and windows and CCTV cameras.
  • Public Toilet at Workplace
  • Generally, the sector of work for the respondents is informal and 63% of the respondents work within 1 km from their residence. While only 16 % of the respondents work within 1 km to 2 km.
  • Generally, the sector of work for the respondents is informal and 84% of the respondents work in the informal sector. 63% of the respondents work within 1 km from their residence. While only 16 % of the respondents work within 1 km to 2 km.
  • 74% of the respondents opined that there are toilet facilities at workplace, while 26% of the respondents do not have toilet facilities at workplace.
  • 100% of the girl students use toilet in the school.
  • 100% of the respondents said that there are no disabled friendly toilets.
  • Only 22% of the toilets at educational institution have sanitary pad facilities. While there are no ramps available for PWDs.
  • Response from family members
  • 82% of the respondents have no toilet at their home.
  • 88% of the respondents have no running water facilities in their house. From This restricts their use of toilet at home and affects the overall quality of life at household level. It also indicates the need for public toilets for almost all their  cleaning  chores such as bathing, washing clothes and other works
  • The public toilets are very useful for the young girls. 84% of the young girls found it very useful.
  • User Satisfaction
  • It is observed that 55% of the respondents are highly disatisfied with the public toilet system in the surveyed slums. While 45% are not satisfied at all. The toilets fare poorly in terms of cleanliness, safety, privacy, convenience and comfort of use . The respondents feel that these factors have not received the due attention from the authorities.
  • 40% are highly dissatisfied with access to toilet, while 30% are not satisfied
  • 25% are highly dissatisfied with the need to wait for their turn, while 40% are  not-satisfied with waiting. However the remaining 35% are satisfied with the waiting time.
  • 55% of the respondents are of the view that they are highly dissatisfied with the type of facility, which is generally expressed in terms of convenience and comfort. While 35% are not satisfied at all. But, 10% of the respondents are adequately satisfied.
  • In terms of cleanliness 32% of the respondents are highly dissatisfied, while 6% are not satisfied at all. Only, a mere 2% are adequately satisfied
  • 20%  of the women respondents are not satisfied with the safety aspects of the public toilet systems while 14% are highly dissatisfied, which calls for adequate staff as well as require proper maintenance of infrastructure in terms of door, windows, ceiling as well as updated security features, such as installation of CCTV cameras


  • Layout and Design of Public toilets: The public toilet entry for women is often surrounded by men, making it difficult and embarrassing for them to access it during the day time and unsafe particularly during the evenings. Thus, a separate entry would make it convenient for the women to use it.
  • Safety and Security: The absence of security guard and women staff in the public toilet creates inconvenience and safety issues associated with it. Thus there is a need for appointment of security guard and women staff for managing and strengthening the public toilet system.
  • Adequacy: In the surveyed slums, it was observed that women need to stand in long queue for a time which varies between 15 to 30 minutes, thus making it difficult for them. Thus, there is a need for more toilets in the surveyed slums.
  • Cleanliness and Women Health: The cleanliness and women health is correlated as physically women are more susceptible to infection. The cleanliness of the toilet depends upon factors like availability of running water, mug and bucket. The most important aspect is the mindset of users that needs a radical change. The hygiene aspects need to be maintained as well. The toilets should be provided with sanitary napkin disposal facility.
  • Physical Infrastructure and its Maintenance: The doors and window panes need to be replaced or repaired considering the safety and security of women and at the same time the lighting aspects need to be enhanced. Bright and energy efficient bulbs need to replace the current dim nature of lighting.
  • Public toilets in the community: The toilet should be open for 24 hours and it should not be restricted to specific timings, as observed in the surveyed slums
  • Transgender and PWD Special needs: There is a need for disabled friendly toilets as well as separate toilet for transgender in these surveyed slum areas.
  • User satisfaction: To improve the overall service quality, timely payment to the staff is mandatory. need The community based monitoring needs to be undertaken with support of government and local NGOs
  • Gender Budgeting: The lack of safe and clean toilets exposes women and girls to diseases, like urinary tract infections (UTIs). Thus, it is necessary that urban development must focus on the gender perspectives in policy design, programme formulation, budget allocation and in creating an institutional mechanism for it. This will ensure that decisions on layout and design of public toilet will not ignore women needs and views. There are no gender segregated inputs in building public toilets except for the number of toilet seats to be made available for females.
  • Digitalization of record system: Lack of proper documentation with respect to the record system. The digitalization of the record system is the need of the hour.
  • Strengthening o CBOs on PT operations and management:  Trainings to be organized for CBOs on PT operations and management. There is a requirement of sub-committee under Basti Development Committee (BDC). Regular operations and maintenance will help urban young women to use the PT.
  • Research and consultation need to be encouraged to identify the nitty-gritty of gender responsive public services, ways to manage it efficiently and effectively and to enhance the accountability of all the stakeholders responsible for managing it.

The study of public toilet system in the slums makes it clear that a successful model of public toilet system must take into consideration the needs and views of women. The proper layout and design of women toilet should be an integral part of smart city plan. Needless to say, but when public toilet is properly designed, managed and maintained in a effective manner, they tend to yield healthy results for all, especially women and girls. It portrays a positive picture of the urban set up. Adequate care must be taken to address the concerns of disabled women and transgender in terms of providing the requisite services for them.

The security and privacy issues are of prime importance for the women users. Thus, secure door locking system and replacement of broken window panes, separate entrance path need to be guaranteed. The recruitment of women as supervisor would help a long way in strengthening the security. Adequate cleaning staff is a pre-requisite for maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene aspects. The cleanliness is public toilet is inadequate and needs to  be enhanced. The regular cleaning, provision of basic sanitary products, interrupted water supply, availability of mugs and buckets, sanitary pad dispensers and its disposal should be provided for user satisfaction. The maintenance of the physical infrastructure would help improving the service quality

To conclude, the effectiveness of public toilets can only be enhanced through participation of all concerned stakeholders. However the beneficiary participation would be the important cog in the wheel.

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