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Engaged Citizens, Responsive City

Start Date : 01 Jan 2017 ,  End Date : 01 Sep 2019

Engaged Citizens, Responsive City focuses on strengthening the urban poor to participate in planning and monitoring of sanitation services.

By 2030, it is estimated, more than half of India’s population will be living in cities. Rapid urbanisation has lead to strain on civic services, in particular sanitation demands. Keeping India’s cities clean cannot be merely the responsibility of municipalities. It is critical that all residents of a city and their civil society associations actively engage in this endeavour. It places a responsibility on civil society to learn to demand their rights, to be heard and be included in the planning and monitoring of civic services.

Civil society in urban India is largely fragmented, weak and often working at cross-purposes. The divides along class, caste, gender, age and conflicting interests make them ineffective in exacting accountability from public institutions. The capacity of the urban poor in particular to engage with municipalities to ensure effective service delivery is extremely weak. The largely unorganised urban poor have remained vulnerable due to lack of organisational leadership and intermediation capacities, and lack of access to information and resources to become active and independent agents of change. The approach of “development through people’s participation” is not very widely utilised by municipalities in India. Middle class India does not appreciate the contribution of the urban poor; rather they see them as the main cause for the unsanitary conditions in cities. Market and traders’ associations, though interested in “clean cities”, are apathetic to actively working with multiple stakeholders to engage with municipalities and hold them accountable. Most importantly, front-line sanitation workers, who are mostly from the lower (scheduled) castes and are usually women, are not valued for their contribution in keeping the city clean.

The four-year long intervention to Strengthen Civil Society of the Urban Poor to Participate in Planning and Monitoring of Sanitation Services. The proposed project across 3 cities in India (Ajmer in Rajasthan, Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, and Muzaffarpur in Bihar) primarily aims to strengthen civil society of the urban poor through capacity building activities to enable them to become active citizens, and use the new skills learnt to participate in the planning (at city level) and monitoring (at the ward level) of sanitation services. The principles of adult learning/experiential learning and participatory methodology will underpin PRIA’s capacity building interventions. Capacitated urban poor civil society will be better able to amplify their voice and engage with municipalities after the authorities have been sensitised to listen and connect.

Sensitised institutions and capacitated civil society, along with a diverse set of other stakeholders (RWAs, traders’ associations, business associations) will be enabled to come together to prepare a city-wide inclusive sanitation plan. 
Sanitation workers are key to keeping a city’s roads clean, in garbage collection and disposal, and cleaning public toilets. By empowering front-line women sanitation workers to value their contribution and enhancing dignity in the work they do will provide a substantial boost to the efforts to keep India’s cities clean.

Advocacy at the state government level will help in creating a more open and conducive environment to supporting participatory planning at the city level. Policy and practice oriented documents and their dissemination will aid learning across cities and institutions.

Overall objective
Enhancing capacities of civil society of the urban poor towards increasing their participation in planning and monitoring of basic sanitation services in their city

Specific objectives
•  Develop capacities of civil society of the urban poor to participate in preparation of city-wide inclusive sanitation plans
•  Develop  capacities of civil society of the urban poor to engage with multiple stakeholders to monitor services and implementation of the inclusive plans in at least 20% wards in each chosen city
•  Develop diversity in leadership of civil society of the urban poor to include the socially excluded, women and youth
•  Sensitise middle class resident associations, traders’ and market associations and business associations to the contribution of the urban poor and promote joint action with the urban poor for planning and monitoring of sanitation services
•  Sensitise officers, staff and elected councillors of municipalities to include voices of urban poor civil society in planning for and providing municipal sanitation services
•  Promote diversity among management, staff and elected councillors of municipalities, and urban residents by valuing the contribution of front-line women sanitation workers
•  Empower front-line women sanitation workers to realise  the dignity of their labour and the significance of their contribution in keeping the city clean

Target groups
Civil society of the urban poor, front-line women sanitation workers

Geographical spread
Ajmer in Rajasthan, Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh and Muzaffarpur in Bihar

Methodology/Key components
•  Collectivisation and mobilising urban poor in informal settlements
•  Participatory capacity building of urban poor organisations (data collection, developing diverse leadership, awareness generation and information sharing)
•  Awareness generation among RWAs, traders and business associations on the contribution of the urban poor and working together with them in planning & monitoring sanitation services 
•  Joint participatory monitoring of sanitation services by urban poor, RWAs, traders and business associations 
•  Sensitisation of municipalities to include urban poor voices and value front-line women sanitation workers
•  Preparation of participatory city-wide sanitation plans (using GPS and mobile based technology)
•  Participatory training of women sanitation workers to value their own contribution and realise dignity of their labour
•  Diversity assessment of municipalities
•  Advocacy with state governments for necessary policy and resource support
•  Documentation and dissemination

Key outputs

•  250 organisations of the urban poor strengthened to participate in sanitation planning & monitoring, and promote diversity in their leadership
•  5000 women and youth trained to conduct participatory surveys •Dignity of labour for 300 women front-line sanitation workers
•  Municipal staff and councillors of 3 cities sensitised to inclusion of urban poor in planning & monitoring of services
•  150 RWAs & 30 private business associations sensitised to engage with the urban poor
•  3 city-wide participatory sanitation plans prepared
•  Knowledge synthesis documents


European Union

The European Union has funded Euro 41,0912.00 for this project.




  • PRIA facilitators listen, engage and explain at the level where participants understand and learn through many practical exercises. The best workshop on gender that our employees have attended

    Tsering Youdon
    Program Officer, Swedish Organisation for Individual Relief
    SOIR-IM, Dehradun, Uttarakhand
  • Elected members & officials from Northern Province, Sri Lanka visited PRIA to learn about their exemplary work in developing citizen participation in governance and service delivery. JGU thanks PRIA.

    Prof. R. Sudarshan
    Dean, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy
    O.P. Jindal Global University
  • Undeniably good work done by PRIA. My visits to the communities they work with let me hear grassroots voices and stories...deeply rewarding for my personal growth, work and future research

    Loreen Regnander
    Intern, University of Victoria, Canada
  • PRIA has helped to build a large movement for citizens to use Panchayati Raj Institutions at the local level, to use their leadership, their voice, to bring about democracy from below

    Dr John Gaventa, Director of Research
    Institute of Development Studies
    Sussex, UK
  • Thank you PRIA -- for helping me gain the confidence to speak up. Today, I do not hesitate to speak with the sarpanch.

    Renu Joshi
    ASHA worker
    Hinglaz gali Anganwadi Centre, Siwana Block, Barmer, Rajasthan
  • I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of being able to enroll myself in the course…this program has opened my eyes to possibilities for my life which were previously unconsidered

    Tripti Vinita Pal, Alumnus
    Appreciation course
  • I am a third party facilitator for three large institutions but I did not know half the things we have discussed in the Third Party Facilitator Training I attended organized by PRIA

    Joint Secretary of Lakshmi, an NGO
  • Participatory Approaches for Social Inclusion course was undoubtedly beneficial for my research work, providing a deep understanding of theoretical aspects and the applied side of participation

    Pallavi Mishra
    PhD Research Scholar
    Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • We learnt multi-stakeholder dialogue as a tool for advocacy from PRIA…it is a wonderful tool for organising people

    Ashok Kadam
  • I am an example of the Kishori Panchayat Programme which gave young girls the desire to do something, a reason to embrace life

    Kishori Panchayat Member