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 children as motivators emerged.
The double challenge – building facilities and behaviour change
Many interviewees stated that one of the key lessons they took from the RAL workshops was that encouraging behaviour change around open defecation was an equally significant challenge to building enough toilet facilities.
As a village secretary from Varanasi District explained:
“The workshop was very useful as I understood the importance of changing behaviour as this was the reason despite years of spending funds on constructing toilets more than 60% of the households are still defecating in the open. Sanitation efforts should then focus on the next generation of children so that they in turn motivate their parents to construct and use toilets.”
The interviews with workshop participants from all three divisional workshops provided evidence that the workshops improved the participants’ knowledge of children-related SBM-G practices.
In Jharkhand Division, a Swacchagrahi from Ranchi District explained “I learnt how important and effective it is to use children as motivators and mobilisers for the construction and use of toilets at household and school level, from districts that have achieved ODF status.”
A village secretary from Rampur District, Moradabad Division, echoed this experience:
“Etah District shared that (in their schools) they would note the names of children that did not have toilets at home and those that did have toilets, and the ones that did not have were given a challenge over five to ten days to convince their parents/guardians to have their individual household latrine. Information, education and communication materials were also useful to make the children aware of the faecal oral contamination route. Also, when school toilets were improved, children were developing a habit of using the toilet at school, which then encouraged them to demand a toilet at home as well.”
Similarly, a district coordinator from Bhadohi District, Varanasi Division, found the field visit exercise beneficial for learning about methods for educating children on sanitation issues.
“The field visit was useful as I was able to see some school activities with a sanitation theme- for example, on ‘bag free Saturdays’ school children were engaged in sanitation related art and craft activities. This would help bring awareness and discussion around this theme.”
Finally, a block coordinator in Rampur District Moradabad Division, explained that the campaign for children to insist on toilets at home ‘Jidd Karo Yatra’ had been part of their workshop action plan, and had been put into practice since the workshop.
From these responses, we can see that the workshops effectively contributed to improving participants’ knowledge of methods for utilising children to promote the construction and use of toilets.
Workshop strategies of field visits and inviting participants from districts already declared open defecation free (ODF) to the RAL workshops were useful.
Participants from districts still working towards ODF could learn from their experiences and hear about particularly effective methods for sharing behaviour change practices towards the installation and use of toilets.