In 2017-2018, we co-convened and facilitated three regional Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G) Rapid Action Learning (RAL) workshops with WSSCC and government officials, in the Moradabad, Varanasi and Jharkhand Divisions.
These workshops aimed to react to the challenges of SBM-G by facilitating horizontal knowledge sharing between participants from various levels of society, encouraging immediate actions to be taken.
The intended impact of the RAL workshops is to facilitate the exchange of successful innovations and practices of what works and what does not.
Once shared, adapted for local needs and conditions and adopted, the insights can contribute to speed, quality and sustainability of behaviour change, construction, and other aspects of the SBM-G initiative.
We conducted in-depth interviews with a total of 61 participants to draw out changes caused by the workshops, and the key topic of the Nigrani Samiti (monitoring committee) approach emerged.
Nigrani Samiti is a team of community members whose duty is to actively discourage open defecation and encourage safe sanitation practices in their village. The leader of the committee holds the title Swacchagrahi.
Their duties include morning and evening monitoring of areas in a village where people regularly defecate in the open and educating people they observe of the advantages of using a toilet. Some committees are issued with uniforms, torches and whistles to draw attention to their presence.
Making Nigrani Samiti more inclusive
Eight interviews and focus group discussions with participants of the RAL workshops in Moradabad and Varanasi provided anecdotal evidence that the workshops had directly contributed to changes in how some participants implement the approach, resulting in greater effectiveness in some cases.
A village secretary and an Agriculture Development Officer from Chandauli District, Varanasi Division, recalled how they learned from Sonabhadra District’s inclusive approach to Nigrani Samiti during the workshop.
The inclusive approach involved including members from all communities, especially from different castes, in the Nigrani Samiti to improve the group’s effectiveness.
Since the workshop, participants from Chandauli have adopted the same practice:
“We learned that wherever Nigrani Samithis were functioning properly members of different communities were included and we started doing the same. We kept adding members if they were active and took on a leadership role within the community and we were then successful. We learned about this in the (RAL) workshop.”
Working together across districts
In Moradabad Division, a village secretary from Moradabad District explained that, after the RAL workshop, he requested a Swacchagrahi from Bijnor District, who had also attended the workshop, to help establish Nigrani Samiti among a nomadic group of people who were practicing open defecation in his district.
“The Swacchagrahi met with 10-15 women from this group and made them into a monitoring committee Nigrani Samiti and provided them with a jacket and cap. From when they became the Nigrani Samiti, they built their toilets first and they were able to encourage others to end open defecation and use toilets. This made a big difference.”
Participants from Rampur and Sambhal Districts, Moradabad Division, also stated in interviews that the formation of Nigrani Samitis was part of their action plans during the RAL workshop, and confirmed that they had since successfully formed the groups.