Community-based approaches to tackle open defecation in rural India: Theory, evidence and policies. Observer Research Foundation, December 2018.
Open defecation (OD), an age-old practice in India, impacts the health of individuals as well as their communities. To tackle the problem, the Government of India launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in 2014, aimed at making the country open-defecation free (ODF) by October 2019 by giving more attention to community-based approaches.
However, while such approaches have helped solve the sanitation riddle in many countries, curbing OD in India is much more complicated: the root of the problem is a combination of lack of sanitation infrastructure and deep-seated habits. So far, India’s sanitation policies have used the top-down approach, focusing on financial assistance for latrine construction.
While this is necessary, considering the social determinants at play, the emphasis must be on changing collective behaviour through participatory methods, a component that has been largely absent from past policies on sanitation.
Demand-driven approaches must be adopted, keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses and ensuring equity-focused actions through community-monitored, locally appropriate and culturally sensitive interventions.