Community-led total sanitation

How we increase access to gold standard toilets.

CARE India worked with the state government of Odisha to increase the poorest families’ access to toilets by 19 times.

The phrase “gold standard toilet” is not one I hear every day, so I to look it up. It’s an improved, unshared latrine. Take a look at the picture on the left.

That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a dramatic improvement for millions of people in India’s Odisha state, who otherwise are forced to sneak out to fields in order to go to the bathroom. The issue is worse for women, who have to go in the dark and face men who harass or attack them for having the temerity to poop. (There’s a great article about this experience called The Toilet Revolution.)

With the Technical and Management Support Team project, CARE India provided technical support to the government of Odisha with the $192,000 from DFID, and reached 7.8 million people indirectly from 2015-2016.

What did we accomplish

  • Women are happier: There was a 35% decrease in the number of women who were unsatisfied with their toilet facilities.
  • Investment crowded in: The project sparked so much demand that the government of India mobilized more money to deal with the problem. In fact, they increased their spending on sanitation for poor families by 8 times.
  • People had better toilets, especially the poorest people: There was a 3-fold increase in people’s access to improved toilets. For people with the lowest standard of living, the increase was 19 times better access.
  • People were more likely to use toilets: There was a 4 fold increase in people using the “gold standard” toilet—that is, a latrine that they don’t share with other families. They were also 2.8 times more likely to safely dispose of feces.
  • Closing the poverty gap: At the beginning of the project, the richest families were 56% more likely to have a toilet than the poorest ones. By the end of the project, that number dropped to 37%.

How did we get there?

  • Support the government: CARE provided the technical support team to that worked with the state government of Odisha to roll out their Community-Led Total Sanitation project.
  • Connect awareness-raising with resources: The project connected community mobilization to available government subsidies. They also made sure to time sessions so that communities with more knowledge could access the resources they needed to act on that knowledge.
  • Test different models: The project looked at different ways to deliver subsidies (either before families built latrines, or after inspecting an existing latrine to make sure that’s where the money goes). That helped them decide which option was most effective.
  • Help communities organize support: The project worked with women’s self-help groups, water sanitation committees, and procurement committees to make sure that the vendors selling materials were using good quality and provided good work.

Want to learn more?

Check out the final evaluation.