Bangladesh: Community-Led Total Sanitation – breaking a dirty old habit in Bangladesh

Dinajpur district residents have stopped defecating in the open because of the children’s total sanitation campaign that follows a radical community-led approach.

A procession of children march through a village in Dinajpur demanding an end to open defecation. Photo: Pal Bangladesh

A procession of children march through a village in Dinajpur demanding an end to open defecation. Photo: Pal Bangladesh

Whistle blowing is a favorite pastime among children in the villages of Dinajpur district in northern Bangladesh. They would blow their whistles when they spot fellow villagers, often adults, defecating in the open, chasing the surprised offenders who would then pull their pants up and attempt to escape the noise and humiliation. […] Within 6 months, they shamed some 250 people from different villages. Besides the whistling and flag-marking, the children also march around villages, chanting slogans against open defecation (OD), sending a direct message to all villagers about the dirty old habit.

The children’s involvement in this direct action against OD is part of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), “an integrated approach to achieving and sustaining open defecation free status.” The children know that their efforts help protect their own and their communities’ health, and adults include them in community decision-making.

[…] Designed by social development specialist Dr. Kamal Kar, CLTS was introduced by Plan, an international development agency, to some 200 villages in Dinajpur in 2004.

[…] In CLTS, hands-off facilitation is important. The rule of thumb for social development facilitators is to trigger self-realization, and not to lecture. Instant provision of hardware-latrines or toilets-are also discouraged. Villagers have to realize first that the problem is staring at them right in the face. The CLTS approach helps communities recognize that they need such sanitation facilities, that they should mobilize themselves to build their own toilets, and that everyone in the village should contribute to achieve “total sanitation.”

[…] Today, most Dinajpur villages have achieved “open defecation free” (ODF) status and, thanks to Plan’s efforts, a number of villages in several districts have also adopted the CLTS approach.

The children’s campaign is the just the beginning. CLTS allows villagers to generate their own ideas for improvement, take control of development processes and decision-making, and manage and sustain the activities. Often, CLTS has led to improving latrine designs, adopting hygienic practices, managing solid waste and wastewater, protecting drinking water sources, and other environmental activities.

Some villagers, however, can prove to be more difficult than others. Ferdousi said, “Two years to convert everyone is not enough, but we will keep on raising awareness.”

Plan now promotes CLTS in other countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. A CLTS Handbook, published in 2008, is also available for social development facilitators.

Related web site: Community-led Total Sanitation – Bangladesh

See also: Whistle blowers put a stop to open defecation, Plan Bangladesh, 28 Mar 2008

Source: Cezar Tigno, ADB, Jan 2009

2 responses to “Bangladesh: Community-Led Total Sanitation – breaking a dirty old habit in Bangladesh

  1. In PNG, villagers in one area would defecate anywhere, with a stick in hand to fend off the pigs, which would “clean up” after them. Voila, “problem solved”! I often wondered, what effect that had when they later ate the pigs…

  2. Md.Masum Hossain,District Project Coordinator,Dhaka Ahsania Mission,SSTSB Project,Jamalpur,Bangladesh

    Dear Plan Partner
    The news is fantastic and it could be ignited to people who are yet to fight with ODF.
    But behind this story here is a great history to cover a total sanitised village .The children was not the only motivator to remove the open defication practice of this villagers.Here is played main role by Local Govt Institutions and associated by Ward Sanitation Taskforce.The Para Action Team was the main motivator for raising awareness to community and there child group played as an associate of WSTF.Total approach has been initiated by Dhaka Ahsania Mission of his DISHARI Project where Plan Bangladesh & WSP-World Bank & WaterAid Bangladesh was given technical & financing support in 2004 to 2008 at eight sub district of Bangladesh (Hatibandha,Sreepur,Jaldhaka,Khanswama,Chirirbandar ,Jamalpur Sadar,Melandah & Bakshigonj Upazilla) and all Upazilla’s has been declared as 100% total sanitation coverage Upazilla in 2007.Huge number of activities have been done in this area through DISHARI Project.
    We will be very happy to see the news when we will be seen the contribution of all partners accordingly.
    Total achievements are come in with the joint effort of all.
    Best regards
    Md.Masum Hossain
    District Project Coordinator (DPC) & Regional Focal Person (RFP)
    Scaling up & Sustainability of Total Sanitation in Bangladesh (SSTSB)
    Dhaka Ahsanai Mission
    Jamalpur Region
    Cell Phone:01712159834

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