SBI General Insurance has built 15 sanitation facilities for girl students in Wada and Chimur talukas in Palghar district of Maharashtra under its CSR commitments. These ‘safe space’ restrooms for girls are expected to have a twofold impact: create a sense of ownership and help bring about a qualitative change in their hygiene habits, and also increase their attendance at schools.

These 15 restrooms along with the 5 built last year will be used by over 10,000 girls in the coming five years. Special workshops on hygiene and sanitation are also being conducted for the girls. Going forward, SBI General aims to equip every school in rural Maharashtra with a ‘safe space’ restroom. For this project, the company has partnered with Palghar-based NGO Learning Space Foundation (LSF).

Shefali Khalsa, head – brand & corporate communication, SBI General Insurance, said, ‘We had initiated this project keeping in view girl students’ education, hygiene and wellbeing. In this region, what really stood out for us was the very high school dropout rates of adolescent girls from agricultural and tribal communities. One of the main reasons was lack of sanitation facilities at zilla parishad schools. We are hopeful that our initiative will go a long way in enabling girl students to continue their education.’ 

Responding to CB’s query on the parameters for assessing impact, Shefali explains that these will cover a) change in daily school attendance of adolescent girl students, b) regular use of sanitary pads during menstrual period, c) awareness of basic personal hygiene and best practices, and d) the ability of adolescent girl students to voice their needs during menstrual periods to parents and female teachers. To understand these aspects, the company will take regular feedback from teachers and village ‘tai’ (elder sister – an educated paid volunteer hired in the project). Quarterly health checkup camps will be held in schools, and there will be documentation of the progress of each girl’s general health status.

There was no clear response on whether SBIG will expand this initiative to other locations.