Kavita Wankhade

Sanitation Changemaker

Influencing the State of Tamil Nadu to Strengthen Governance Mechanisms

Kavita Wankhade, Head - Practice (Governance & Services) & Associate Dean - School of Systems and Infrastructure, works at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, a national education institution committed to the equitable, sustainable, and efficient transformation of Indian urban settlements. She has worked as a researcher, project manager and educator. A strong advocate of inclusive planning, Kavita’s work specifically focuses on the overall wellbeing of sanitation workers, looking at their occupational safety, welfare, health, and livelihoods. 

She believes inclusive sanitation embodies the principle of "Leaving no one behind," ensuring safe sanitation not only for the public, but also for sanitation workers. Kavita has been driven by an overarching endeavour to bridge the academia-industry divide and foster a holistic understanding of urban development challenges and solutions. In her 17+ years of practice, Kavita has witnessed a positive shift in the sector's priorities where the focus has transitioned from merely achieving access, to a comprehensive approach, with a welcome emphasis on the "entire sanitation value chain". She believes that this shift has also embraced multifaceted and intersectional solutions, fostering a broader perspective on inclusion, which encompasses the urban poor, gender dynamics, and sanitation worker welfare.

In her capacity as the Project Director of Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme (TNUSSP), she has been supporting the state of Tamil Nadu to scale up Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) across 649 urban local bodies and implement City-Wide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) at Trichy, focusing on inclusive sanitation service delivery for all. Notably, TNUSSP influenced the Government of Tamil Nadu to enhance governance mechanisms by amending the Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies Act to include a chapter on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) and revise operative guidelines based on on-ground evidence. TNUSSP has also been well known for its remarkable Behaviour Change and Communication (BCC) Campaign for FSM in Tamil Nadu - ‘Kakkaman’, a friendly character aiming to reposition sanitation as an aspirational topic for all stakeholders in the state. Besides these innovative initiatives, capacity building of stakeholders, behavior change, and communication efforts have been key elements in their contributions. Kavita's work in TNUSSP has successfully demonstrated various models for inclusive sanitation, making a substantial impact on the sector. 

She appreciates the NFSSM Alliance for allowing her to stay connected with sector professionals through meetings, convenings, and conferences, fostering solidarity and cross-learning. Kavita has actively contributed to this national alliance where she has facilitated learning through exposure visits and ensured that she shared the Tamil Nadu model with other states in the Alliance. 

Kavita's aspirations for the sector and the Alliance are aligned with the mission of scaling safe and inclusive sanitation to all cities and towns in India. Her vision encompasses the dream of making inclusive sanitation a reality for all, ensuring that no one is left behind.