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Stories of Change, Messages of Hope for Sanitation in South Asia

Regional Sanitation Conclave – New Delhi, October 24, 2008

“We started in 2006 with only a handful of advocates,” says Shah Jahan, community activist, Integrated Regional Support Program (IRSP), Mardan, in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, “slowly we began to motivate people, visited schools to win over children.

Today 7 of the 48 villages in our Union Council have become open defecation free. It’s a start. Community-Led Total Sanitation should be part of school education. Put it in a textbook, any subject – it is relevant everywhere.”

Jindu Ram, Sarpanch, Khandraur Panchayat, Bilaspur district, in India’s Himachal Pradesh, lives hundreds of miles from Mr. Jahan but shares his sentiment. In 2006, we began a campaign to build latrines in every home,” Mr. Ram recalls, “members of the community asked us: Where’s the money? Who will pay? We told them, it’s in your interest, for your health and well-being. Do it yourself. Build your own toilet. About 80 percent of the community was inspired.”

Mr. Jahan and Mr. Ram were among civil society sanitation activists, local community leaders, and government officials from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, who spoke at a one-day Regional Sanitation Conclave in New Delhi on October 24, 2008.

Convened by the Department of Drinking Water Supply, the Government of India, and the Water and Sanitation Program, the Conclave was an opportunity to bring together in one place sanitation workers and officials from three countries that have similar socio-economic challenges. Participants shared lessons and practices and sensitized senior media professionals by providing them with stories of change from communities.

The Conclave also included a panel discussion on whether the media was “Part of the Solution or the Problem” when spreading the message of the need for sanitation. Journalists shared their experiences; detailing the problems they faced while writing and reporting on sanitation issues and discussing the responsiveness, or otherwise, of news organizations.

In a Conclave innovation called “Turning the Tables,” Gourisankar Ghosh, former Executive Director of the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council and a specialist in sanitation issues, interviewed a panel comprising senior editors from KTV News (Pakistan), the New Indian Express, CNN/IBN (India), and Tehelka (India). The purpose of his questions was to find out how familiar media professionals were with sanitation and related issues and how any gaps could be filled.

The Conclave was the second of three such sanitation conferences that are being convened around the South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN III) to be held from November 16-21, 2008 in New Delhi. The first Conclave took place in Chennai, on September 2-3, 2008.

The Conclaves are raising awareness, across the South Asia region, of initiatives in small towns and hamlets, political incentives for improved sanitation and ensuring that SACOSAN III results in concrete actions to provide total sanitation in the South Asia region. The Delhi Regional Conclave was preceded, on October 23, by a field visit to the villages of Kurukshetra, Haryana, a short drive from New Delhi. Participants gained a first-hand experience of how sanitation access is transforming health, gender and social conditions in rural areas.

To view the presentations from the conclave, click on the links below; 

  1. A Movement towards Total Sanitation in India – Mr T.M. Vijay Bhaskar, Joint Secretary, Department of Drinking Water Supply, Government of India 

  2. “Urban Sanitation: Current Issues and Citywide Planning for Effective Outcomes” – Mr A.K. Mehta, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India

  3. “Pakistan: Making Sanitation a Wider Agenda” – Mr Muhammad Irfan Saeed Alrai, WSP-SA, Islamabad, Pakistan 

  4. “Bangladesh Country Presentation” – Mr Abdul Motaleb, WSP-SA, Dhaka, Bangladesh

  5. Lodhran Pilot Project – Mr Barkat Ali Riaz, Project Coordinator, Lodhran Pilot Project, Punjab, Pakistan 

  6. Experience Sharing of Implementing CLTS by Thardeep Rural Development Program – Ms Gulshan Ara, Community Activist, Rural Support Programs Network (RSPN), Sindh, Pakistan