World Toilet Day: Raising Awareness About Sanitation

November 19 is World Toilet Day, so deemed by the World Toilet Organization, a global non- profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide, in order to raise global awareness and advocacy for the 2.5 billion people without access to proper sanitation. 

Partners in the water and sanitation sector will hold events and exhibitions in several countries to mark World Toilet Day, while also calling attention to newer ways of providing access to sanitation to the most underserved.  One of these methods is Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), a community-driven approach to improve sanitation behavior among villages in developing countries.  The CLTS approach has proven so effective that Government officials and sector partners in countries such as Indonesia are now looking for ways to widen its impact.


East Java, Indonesia: Indigenous strategies for scaling up CLTS impact

Local governments in Indonesia’s East Java province carrying out a cost-effectiveness analysis with sanitation program data came to a revealing conclusion in mid-2008 that is affecting local government budget allocations for forthcoming rural sanitation programs.

A CLTS-based, subsidy-free approach was found to have generated nine times the household investment for sanitation improvement, and led to more than ten times the number of household toilets constructed than conventional programs that offered subsidies for toilet construction. And this happened even though the CLTS-based program had operated for only seven months, while the subsidized programs were all several years old.

Learning what allows for such rapid progress and how it can be sustained is at the center of the Total Sanitation and Sanitation Marketing (TSSM) project, an innovative initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and executed by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) in partnership with the governments of, India, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

During 2007-10, WSP is working with 29 district governments in East Java in implementing TSSM, facilitating CLTS in interested communities of all districts, and simultaneously helping to develop local markets for sanitation services. District governments in Indonesia are participating by choice and acting as co-investors.

In the first ten months of the project, 375 villages have asked for CLTS intervention, of which 328 have been triggered, resulting in 262 Open Defecation-Free (ODF) communities by September 2008. For quality assurance, WSP uses specialized resource agencies who train local government staff on-the-job in how to trigger CLTS with communities and provide follow-up technical support on demand.

Following the triggering initiated by TSSM, both the communities and the local government have devised many indigenous strategies for scaling up.

Indigenous strategies to become and remain Open Defecation Free

Village Perning in Nganjuk district managed to achieve open defecation free (ODF) status across all its four hamlets (dusuns) within a record two weeks time.  Whenever there was a CLTS triggering activity in one dusun, selected persons from neighboring dusuns were involved so that they could then potentially become igniters of similar change in their own hamlets.  Moreover, the village chief provoked different dusuns by publicly stating that in the Javanese spirit of mutual self help (gotong royong), he would be only too happy to invite people to help dusuns unable to make good progress (towards becoming ODF) to dig their latrine holes.  This approach effectively challenged each dusun’s sense of self-respect and sped up social mobilization within the hamlet. To sustain ODF behaviour across all dusuns, a village-level CLTS Committee was instituted with members from each dusun, to maintain watches at sites previously used for open defecation and to catch and prevent potential open defecators.

In Bareng, village ODF status was achieved within a month.  But during subsequent household meetings organized by the village CLTS committee it became evident that equipping each household with a latrine was not enough.  To sustain the ODF status, people of Bareng needed easy access to latrines when they were working in the forest and plantation areas.  They have since built simple covered pit latrines at several collectively chosen sites in the forest and the plantation to prevent anyone defecating in the open in their environment.  The village chief pays locals a transportation incentive to monitor five neighborhoods (Rukun Tetangga) each and periodically report on sanitation access rate, households with handwashing facilities, and any remaining open defecators.

In Pasuruan district, groups of 10-20 households in remote villages situated too far from sub-district markets, have signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with traders of sanitation hardware for a schedule of delivery of supplies. Every month a few households in each group receive supplies and construct their toilets, using funds from an arisan – a revolving savings and credit plan to which all households contribute. The village chief endorses the MOUs by countersigning, thus providing a guarantee to the traders.

In several villages, village elders have helped local artisans capable of producing low-cost, cement-cast closets by providing working capital.  This meant that sanitation hardware could be sold to the poorest families on credit, allowing them to pay back in instalments or at the time of harvest.

Sub-district primary health centers (Puskesmas) are serving as an ODF status verification authority.  Local government administrators (Bupatis) have encouraged villages to achieve ODF status by rewarding them with other infrastructure, for example a paved connecting road, a satellite disk, or school toilets. The national government is considering mechanisms to link nationwide community infrastructure project interventions with rewards for ODF communities.

- Nilanjana Mukherjee, Sr. TSSM Project Adviser and Djoko Wartono, TSSM National Coordinator, WSP–East Asia and Pacific


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Christopher Walsh
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