The Nirmal Bharat Yatra
was a sanitation & hygiene awareness & behavior change campaign conceptualized & implemented by WASH United & Quicksand. It travelled 2,000 kms across rural parts of 5 Indian states between 2nd October 2012 & 19th November 2012.
WASH United is an international water, sanitation and hygiene advocacy organization that has pioneered new approaches using the power of sports super stars, interactive games and positive communication to promote safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), working with dozens of partners in Africa and now also in India. See below for more on WASH United and its future plans. And here's a picture of (at least some of) the organizing team -- lots of people are missing but are surely there in spirit!
Quicksand Design Studio is an India-based innovation consultancy with significant background in the field of WASH innovation, having worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), PATH, Unilever, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine among others.
Together, along with a fabulous team of videographers, photographers, choreographers, journalists, activists, musicians and others from all over the world, we organized and managed the first iteration of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra. Of course, none of this could have been implemented without the generous support of our partner organizations (see below) and a terrifically hard-working set of staff, crew, and volunteers.
The traveling carnival (yatra/mela) format is intended to appeal to a pre-dominantly rural audience while genuinely being immersive, innovative and fun. It’s a format that can become a genuine platform where new elements – Bollywood style WASH performances, cricket-based WASH games, etc are embedded. The excitement and dynamism of such a format catches public imagination and easily can become a meme or go viral.
WASH United India: Moving Forward
WASH United India (WUI) occupies a singular position in the Indian sanitation and hygiene landscape. Focusing on demand generation through positive messaging, the organization functions as a "club" (like Manchester United or similar sports clubs) that people from all backgrounds can join to support the reimagining of previously taboo subjects such as shitting in the open, handwashing without soap and menstrual hygiene management.
Partnering with organizations, both grassroots and international donors, and within and beyond the sanitation and hygiene sector, is a core tenet of WUI's operating model. WUI leads the field in implementing creative, informative and effective campaigns aimed at making toilets cool and sexy. Using the power of Cricket, Bollywood, and fun in general, WUI gives positive messaging its rightful place as one of the most powerful methods of influencing lasting behaviour change.
Some of WASH United's strongest relationships are with the central and state governments of India. After the tremendous success of the first iteration of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra, a number of government stakeholders got in touch with WASH United to devise plans for state-specific Yatras, to be called "Nirmal Rajya Yatras." That represents the medium-level Yatra to the Nirmal Bharat Yatra's macro-level. Then, on the micro level, the WASH United team is working with a design team to create an innovative platform that can bring the Yatra down the so-called "last mile" to villages in the form of a Nirmal Gram Yatra (NGY). The NGY would operate out of a much smaller convoy, and would have a small footprint. It could travel to specific villages and give locals a truly immersive experience without requiring them to travel great distances. Here's a sneak peek at what it might look like:
And a fun map with possible "Rajya Yatras:"
Stay posted for further Yatra-related developments. We're on the cusp of something big here. A movement to end open defecation, encourage effective handwashing, promote menstrual hygiene management, and create a healthier and happier India.