More than just a toilet

Rotary Club of Madras to extend HIS and HER Place to a few more localities

Launched in 2020, the facility that is operated in association with CANSTOP and the Greater Chennai Corporation ran for some months before COVID-19 forced it to shut down temporarily. It reopened this year after the second wave.

Club members found that many women avoided public washrooms due to unhygienic conditions and they wanted to address the issue by building toilets. “We approached the Greater Chennai Corporation with a proposal and they asked us to renovate the existing toilets that were bad,” says Dr Vijaya Bharathi Rangarajan, past president, Rotary Club of Madras.

A 20ft x 12ft old steel container toilet placed on a concrete pedestal is where it all started.

Every second and fourth Thursday, a free medical camp is conducted with specialised doctors attending to patients. “We have skin specialists, general physicians and doctors from other specialised areas visiting the place,” says Dr Vijaya, founder CANSTOP.

As per the records of the Club, an average of 300 to 350 people use the facility every day and 150 people attend the medical camp, she says.

Rotary members continue to oversee the project and also pay for its upkeep. They have outsourced the daily operation and maintenance to a team and also collect a small amount from users.

“We charge ₹5 from every user and that amount goes towards buying cleaning equipment, and this is in consultation with GCC,” says Dr Vijaya.

People do not value something that comes free, so it is important to ensure that people not just use the facility but also take care of it.

“We have a board that displays the contact number that people can call to register any complaints they may have,” she says.

As most of the members of the Club live in and around T Nagar, Vijaya says, they come on morning walks and inspect the place.

Recently, GCC approached the Club to extend this project to a few other areas in T Nagar and also in Khader Nawaz Khan Road.

“Refurbishing an existing toilet is not so cost-effective, so our upcoming projects will be about building toilets from the scratch,” says the doctor, adding that they have identified a location in T Nagar, outside Panagal Park, and opposite Sarada Vidyalaya Girls Higher Secondary School. The container will be placed without hindrance to pedestrian and vehicular movement.

They also plan to add more amenities like offer the space to a small-scale business that would also be able to maintain the facility. A café attached to the washroom is also being planned.

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