Payal Seth is a PhD Student and a Tata Cornell Scholar in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
Every year, 188,000 children under five in India die due to diarrhea-related illnesses. This catastrophic burden on children’s health is largely due to the fact that over a third of the Indian population defecates in the open. Open defecation (OD) also has strong gender impacts; women feel constrained to relieve themselves only under the cover of darkness, for reasons of privacy and to protect their dignity. In Uttar Pradesh (UP), rapes and molestation incidents commonly occur while women are out at night. Detrimental health impacts of open defecation are even more significant in population dense areas, like UP (828 persons per km in the district; Census 2011).
Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS): An approach that works?
Despite many efforts from the Indian government, the problem of OD persists, largely due to the common belief that defecating in the open is natural and healthy and that building a latrine in the house brings impurity to it. It has not been well established that the root cause of the problem is not the unavailability of toilets but the unwillingness of the rural people to embrace the change. Hence while doing the fieldwork in UP as a TCI scholar, I realized, in collaboration with Grameen Development Services (GDS), that social norms and habits will need to be altered if open defecation is to be successfully combated. Simply building more toilets will not do the job. Continue reading