Monday, February 6, 2012

Improving our programmes for better results

The 3rd regional sanitation and hygiene practitioners workshop held last week (31 Jan-2 Feb 2011) generated many inspiring and animated interactions. And more people have joined the discussions via the Facebook page:
Discussions at the 'Dhaka adda'/ gossip corner 

The overarching workshop themes were equity, monitoring and sustainability. Discussions have touched on a range of  issues and challenges around these themes.

Equity is the principle of fairness. While many poilicies and WASH programmes aim to reach everyone (women and men, rich and poor, social minorities and majority groups) in practice, many people are left behind. Practicing equity and involves recognising that people are different and need different support and resources to ensure that their rights are realized (Shordt, Da Silva Wells, Krukkert 2012).

Questions related to equity included: Are we reaching the poorest and how can we do better? What could be done to improve menstrual hygiene of girls who are not-in-school? How gender sensitive are ecosan toilets? And how do women use them when they menstruate? How to reach out to men?

Building on the conclusions of the 2010 workshop, we examined a number of monitoring methods which monitor performance and use of facilities, not just counting how many 'improved' toilets have been built. 

For sustainability it is crucial that we look beyond construction. Effective hygiene promotion is a key factor for achieving sustained behaviour change. But investments are also needed in ongoing monitoring of toilets and their use, solid and liquid waste disposal at village level, capacity building of local government and local small businesses. The Life Cycle Cost Approach and service levels developed by the WASHCost programme provide a useful framework to analyse spending by government and households on sanitation and the resulting levels of service.

WASHCost research in India, covering more than five thousand households, concludes that capital investments made on sanitation are often going to waste, as the toilets constructed are not being used.  Once pits fill up, people often revert to open defecation. In seven out of the 21 villages studied that were declared 'Open Defecation Free', more than half the population did not use a toilet. Read the full paper 'Looking beyond capital costs - Life-cycle costing for sustainable service delivery' here 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Monitoring for effectiveness

There is a huge focus on construction in the WASH sector. Each country wants to meet the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and a tremendous increase in toilets is needed. But, construction is not the same as safe use by all family members forever. The Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme has applied a framework for performance monitoring in in 5 countries. This framework collects data on qualitative issues like the use of sanitation facilities by all family members, involvement in decisionmaking etc, and quantitative issues like how many toilets, handwashing facilities etc.
In densely populated or informal settlements, toilets for each household are often not an option. Where they exist, public toilets are often in a horrible state. Successful monitoring and management of community toilets is an area where much can be learned.

Communitee monitoring team, Delhi 

Joyti Sharma of and NGO called Force India presented an approach which has been applied succesfully in in 75 slums in Delhi. Community monitoring teams of young women monitor performance of the toilet complexes on service indicators specified in their contract with the municipality. Impacts have been:
- Infrastructure improved drastically
- Community knows what to expect and what not
- Appreciative mode of operation by the monitoring teams helps improve the situation
- Proven scalability and improved sustainability

The paper titled “Improvement in community toilet complex services through community monitoring" can be downloaded here:

Service improvement can lead to higher revenues for the operators as well as more satisfied users. In Katmandu, Basnet Manish and Bajimaya Shreya did a survey of public toilets, focusing on the ‘City Service Center (CSC)’ model and mobile toilets operating under a Public Private Partnership (PPP). They conclude that cleaner, more convenient and profitable facilities come from Build, Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) mechanisms under a public-private agreements. Successful toilet complexes have other services/shops in the same complex, as well as a good location for the complex. The private operators are motivated to provide a good service and make a profit too. The paper titled “Study of different modalities of public toilets in Kathmandu Metropolitan City" can be downloaded here:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Join us on Facebook!

Day 2 of the workshop has started. We have lots to share. Stay informed here, and like us on Facebook so you can help expand the network and bring in more voices!

Can we make toilets spread like mobiles?

Wherever we go, even to the most remote and poorest areas, people have and use mobile phones. But, we see that the same people still defecate in the bushes or use toilets that are not hygienic. Mobiles have evolved from a luxury item to a common necessity that increases your status. People aspire to having a newer model phone.

But we talk about 'latrines' and promote technologies that are old.  Mobile providers use smart, agressive marketing tactics instead and sell different options to different users, old and young, poor and rich.

We need to:
  • understand what would motivate different groups to build, use and maintain toilets
  • target our messages better based on this knowledge on motivation and barriers
  • work on diverse technical options and their costs
  • provide/promote financing models with incremental upgrading options
  • strengthen supply-side
  • support sanitation business models and promote ways that sanitation can bring direct monetary benefits (re-use of waste)
The bottom line is: people will only invest in building, maintaining and upgrading  their toilets if they love them. A nice toilet could be part of a more 'modern' life.So we have to be creative, innovative and make sure that the supply can meet felt demands.

Equity the principle of fairness

Day 1 of the workshop brought many animated discussions, informative presentations and enthusiastic stories about the value of sharing experiences. Some people had been to the workshops in 2010 and 2008 and were motivated to come again, to be inspired and challenged, to network and improve their own practice. For others this is the first time, but their interest to learn and share resulted in lively discussions in small groups.

Equity was the cross cutting theme of the day. Across the region, the poorest are the ones who have the lowest access and use of toilets. Although there are geographic areas where sanitation coverage is extremely low, an analyis of national data done by WaterAid Bangladesh revealed that government programs don't target these areas.

In other words, despite ambitious policies, funds and efforts are often not focused on reaching the poorest and most marginalised groups. There are many questions about how to translate these ambitions into practical actions. A few of the programmes discussed today give some some pointers:

Force, an NGO in India has developed a monitoring approach for community toilet complexes which has helped improve the service provided (cleanliness, timely repairs, operation, transparency and other issues) and increased the community's awareness of their rights and obligations. This innovative and simple monitoring system strengthens the government system and is being taken to scale by the government.
In the ADB-Assisted 3rd Water and Sanitation Sector Project in Sri Lanka, vulnerable groups were identified using indicators prepared by a committee including representation from the local community based organisation and the local authority. Contributions in cash and in labour were made by local households and the poorest who could not provide either were sponsored by local 'well wishers' and the project to purchase labour from others in the community.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

By all and forever

It's been silent on this blog for a while. But that is going to change soon...We're getting ready for the 3rd Asia Sanitation and Hygiene practitioners workshop. This one builds on our collective learning and documentation in the 2008 and 2010 workshops and focuses on  improving sustainability, equity, monitoring in Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

The workshop will be held from 31 January to 2 February 2012 in Bangladesh. Over 50 professionals from the region, from NGOs, universities, research institutes and government, will participate in this interactive event. We'll be exploring questions like: What have we learned about moving beyond construction to a focus on sustainable facilities and hygiene behaviours? What does it take to make sanitation a sustainable service? How to reach vulnerable groups in practice and ensure equity in our programmes? Do we achieve what we aim to achieve and what monitoring frameworks and tools help us measure that?

Over 23 papers have been submitted and more photostories and practical lessons will be shared at the workshop. The papers can be accessed at

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Behaviour change- 2 videos from youtube

As I reflect on the workshop I am struch with how challenging achieving behaviour change is

The first video is from the Total Sanitation Campaign effort from a village in Gujarat, rehabilitated after a major earthquake there. A young man explains that though have built the toilets in each house, the men prefer going out in the open. Younger children go to school but follow their elders in going out in the open for defecation

and the second is from a group working on AIDS which explains the theory of behaviour change with smoking as an example