A community-led sanitation campaign by the Rajasthan government and UNICEF has made 12 panchayats in four districts open defecation free

It might sound a crude way to persuade people not to defecate in the open but the strategy has worked successfully in a number of African countries and Bangladesh and is also being implemented in some parts of India, including Rajasthan.

The strategy, Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), is based on the premise that a community can become open defecation free (ODF) only when all its members genuinely feel a need for sanitary toilets and are not pressurised to do so.

The CLTS approach is part of the collaboration between the Rajasthan government and UNICEF to convince and enable the community as a whole to adopt toilet use. It is being implemented in the four districts of Dungarpur, Tonk, Udaipur and Karali and 12 gram panchayats have already become OFD.

The motivator, who plays a key role, starts by interacting with the community by talking about the cleanest and the dirtiest places in the village. He first takes some of them to the cleanest place, which is often the place of worship, and then to the dirtiest place — littered with human waste. Then he touches the excreta with a strand of hair, puts it in a glass of water and asks the villagers to drink it. When they refuse saying it was dirty, the motivator points out to flies which frolic in the waste and then sits on food left open in houses.

The villagers are also explained how the women are exposed to risks when they go out at night or before dawn to defecate in the open. Sometimes these are conveyed through drawings and charts. The whole process evokes shame and disgust in the villagers’ minds.

Shambhu, who underwent field training as a motivator in Hajipura village in Tonk district which has now been declared as ODF, says the immediate impact after the whole process was that from the very next day, both men and women brought ash or soil to cover the waste. The motivators are given a five-day training and get Rs. 1,000 for transport and other expenses. They are also paid Rs. 3,500 per month as an honorarium once they are on the job.

In an engaging and interactive manner, the villagers are also informed the number of work days lost, medical expenses and the impact on livelihood because of illnesses caused due to open defecation. They are educated about the different types of low-cost, affordable toilets and subsidies available for building the same.

According to Census 2011, 80 per cent of Rajasthan’s rural households defecate in the open. However, the good news is that most of the government schools in the State now have separate toilets for girls and boys and almost all have drinking water facilities.

Wali Mohammed, the Sarpanch of Devpura panchayat under which Hajipura village comes, says that he, along with other people, have been visiting homes, holding meetings to motivate people to construct toilets; today every home in Hajipura has a toilet. His mission, he says, is to ensure that all 12 villages that come under his panchayat are freed from open defecation. Ninety-three per cent of the rural population in Tonk defecates in the open, according to Census 2011.

The students of the upper primary government school in Hajipura and members of the School Management Committee have also been instrumental in persuading people to use toilets. The school has children’s cabinet for sanitation and environment. Sana Parween, minister of sanitation in the school cabinet, says students who understand the convenience of using toilet facilities in schools, especially the girls, have been urging their parents to construct toilets at home.

Today with every household having a toilet, girls in the village are the happiest lot. They say that earlier they were ashamed of defecating in the open and their mothers had to accompany them at night. There were also fears of bad elements, insect bites and falling ill. Now they feel liberated.