Congratulations Ar. Joshi!
Wins WADe India 2017 Special Category Award for Social cause
Pratima, a Masters of Architecture from Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, University College (London) has worked in the area of sustainable low cost housing and sanitation for the urban poor for nearly 25 years. Using concepts like multi-stakeholder consultation, user-centered design and participative governance long before they were fashionable, her approach has evolved to include the following principles:
- Understanding the true situation before making plans—collect data and speak with all involved parties
- Designing spaces, whether building for the poor or toilets, must account for habits and ambitions of residents/users, rather than aiming for the lowest cost solution—this means engaging the final users rather than thrusting a well-meaning solution upon them
- Managing infrastructure is more important than building it—hence, accountability and management systems must be put in place from the start, not as after-thought
She is widely recognized as a leading planner and designer of slum infrastructure, co-founding SA to convert slums into housing societies for the poor, to provide safer and cleaner environment that retains the community spirit and gives access to services like water, sanitation, electricity etc. which often urban slums lack. Over the last 24 years, SA has facilitated successful social housing projects and community sanitation. However based on the data that was collected for slums across cities, it was evident that access to safe sanitation was acutely missing. Also the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, gave impetus to our work and hence SA focused attention to household sanitation in slums by launching its ‘One home one toilet’ (OHOT) model that was tried and tested over a decade.
WADe India Special category award is for a woman designer, artist or architect who may or may not be practising design or architecture but contributing hugely to the design industry or society in general through her work. WADe believes in spreading the work of such women so that more can follow.
Pratima has participated in policy discussions and advised government programs including the Rajiv AwasYojna (RAY), and speaks and presents this work extensively across the world at universities, to government and other social sector organizations. Pratima has received great recognition for the work she has been undertaking along with her team at Shelter Associates.
Amongst her many accolades, include the Google Earth Hero Award (2009), only Indian to receive this award, Amazing Indian by Times Now (2011), Ashoka Fellowship for outstanding work as a social entrepreneur (2007), Aga Khan Scholarship in 1986, only Indian architect invited to speak at 24th World Congress of Architects in Tokyo (2011), and more.
“I think as a Women Entrepreneur, my greatest strength is Empathy. As a woman working in the development sector, I am able to connect to the issues particularly faced by underprivileged women in slums where they lack access to the most basic services like Sanitation and water”
In conversation with Surfaces Reporter…
Q. What prompted you to take up the less trodden path of Slum/Shelter development?
There were early influences of eminent planners who taught us while I was studying architecture in School of Architecture and Planning in Chennai and later when I did a Masters program called ‘Building design for developing countries’ in Bartlett School of Architecture in London. By the time I finished my education I had decided that I will only work in the field of development.
Q. Tell us about the most challenging experience in your career, and the winning moment.
We have been advocating for a data driven, citywide approach to planning rehabilitation strategies for the urban poor for over a decade. We had a chance in 2010, to demonstrate our citywide housing model for the poor of Sangli-Miraj city where we used GIS and Google map technology to plan rehab strategies. It was the most challenging project to date. The high point was when this project partially impacted the national policy of ‘Rajiv Awas Yojana’ where mapping slums across cities was made mandatory for cities using GIS and remote sensing technology. Another high point was when Google earth made a film on our work under their ‘Google earth hero’ series. We were the only NGO selected in India by them.
Q. Over the last 25 years, how has the mindset and conditions changed?
There is certainly a visible change in the attitudes of the stakeholders with whom we work including the government. I believe information technology has contributed in a big way to this change. When we started working in slums 25 years ago, we found that cities lacked data about the poor in their cities and hence were clueless regarding the gaps in the delivery of essential services. When we introduced GIS and remote sensing technology to map poverty in the late 90’s, there was tremendous resistance to using technology. Today there is realization that Information technology can be an effective tool in planning services efficiently. We have demonstrated this very effectively in the Swach Bharat Abhiyan program where we have facilitated household toilets to over 3 lakh people across 6 cities.
Q. Your Vision for Shelter Associates and the initiative.
Our vision is an India where every citizen has access to housing and the most basic services like water, sanitation, electricity etc to allow them to lead a life of dignity.
“When we introduced GIS and remote sensing technology to map poverty in the late 90’s, there was tremendous resistance to using technology. Today there is realization that Information technology can be an effective tool in planning services efficiently.”
Q. As a Women Entrepreneur, what do you consider to be your greatest strength and why?
I think its Empathy. As a woman working in the development sector, I am able to connect to the issues particularly faced by underprivileged women in slums where they lack access to the most basic services like Sanitation and water. And this empathy motivates us to work in a spirit of partnership with communities especially women and adolescent girls to resolve their issues and restore their dignity.
Q. As a Role Model, what is your one advice to young and aspiring architects?
I would advice young architects to seek a career in development as there is a huge need for professionals like us to engage with this sector -especially since many cities are aiming to become smart cities. I can assure them from my personal experience that it will be an exciting and fulfilling journey!
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