Society for Community Health Awareness Research and Action

Community Culture and Sustainable Sanitation Approach - Workshop Report 2015


Sanitation and community culture are interlinked. To attain positive sustainable sanitation practices by community we need to understand community culture in the context of defecation, clean environment and personal hygiene practices. Values, attitude, assumptions, behaviour, and belief’s people share about themselves and others and about the natural world they live, make up community culture.  According to Census 2011, 71.59% of the rural population in Karnataka is dependent on open spaces for defecation. Over the years the Government of India along with the many international organizations have made efforts to bring about changes in rural communities by improving sanitation services through various projects, but the achievements are not up to the mark. This is because human factors related to social, economic, cultural, political and ecological determinants of health which also impact on sanitation practices are not understood.

In this context SOCHARA, Bangalore unit organised a National level workshop on Community Culture and Sanitation on 23.07.2015 and 24.07.2015 at SOCHARA annex Bangalore.

Objectives of the workshop

  • To understand “Community Culture” in the context of open defecation practices.
  • To understand the connection between values, attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and assumptions that the people share about both clean environment and sanitation practices especially defecation. 
  • To reflect on community action to tackle some of these challenges based on experience in Karnataka and elsewhere in India.
  • To promote and undertake sanitation related activities in rural areas through Networking, Training, and Research over the next year and over three years.
  • To reflect on the challenges of environmental sanitation in the context of disaster management and response in the light of recent disasters including the Nepal earthquake, floods in Kashmir etc.

The Agenda for the Workshop was as follows 

  • Sustainable sanitation and the need for community involvement
  • Introduction to “Community Culture and linkage with sanitation practices”  
  • Community Culture and Sanitation   – Discussion on exploratory studies done by SOCHARA community health alumni and fellows
  • Reflections on approaches to tackle some of these challenges from collective experience   
  • Sharing of strategies and activities through working in sanitation, by Alumni fellows and other network partners to improve Sanitation conditions
  • Sustainable approach to improve sanitation conditions in rural areas – A Case study – Presentation by Mr. Janardhan Hulgi, former President Koppal Zilla Panchayat, and Karnataka State.
  • A reflection on the challenges of environmental sanitation practices in the context of Disaster Response.
  • Discussion on strengthening the Sanitation Network at National level and Plans for the Future.
  • Participants from NGO’s, CBO’s, Educational and Research Institutions from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka attended the workshop.

The two-day workshop entailed presentations and discussions that highlighted various aspects of addressing sanitation in both rural and urban environments. Various resource persons and participants actively shared their experiences and raised some important points for further discussion. This article summarises the workshop proceedings using some excerpts from the detailed report on the Workshop; the latter can be accessed through SOCHARA.

Session 1: - Experience on Sanitation in Cambodia – Mr. Sam Joseph

Sam Joseph focused on bringing community culture and acceptability of interventions into perspective. He shared his experience in establishing the underlying causes of CLTS failure through a project by GSF (Global Sanitation Fund), in Cambodia.

Session 2: - Sharing Activities on Water and Sanitation – District partners

Various District partners came forward to share about their work and field experiences in addressing sanitation issues across various regions of the country. These included SPAD – Bangalore Urban, SOCHARA – CEU – Tamil Nadu, DEEPS – Dharmapuri, Vimukthi – Belgaum, Vimukthi – Raichur, People’s Organisation - Davangere, Community Social Action - Christ University, Myrada – Gulbarga.

Session 3 :- Koppal Environmental sanitation work  experience by  Mr.Janaradhan Hulgi

  • Mr. Janaradhan Hulgi is a former Koppal Zilla Panchayat President (2013-14). During his period he showed interest in promoting sanitation activity in Koppal Zilla panchayat through various steps. He shared his experiences and efforts from which a number of points for learning and reflection arose:
  • Language issues
  • Change in the mind set of the people
  • Participants want to know more about the SOCHARA work
  • Triggering people is important, examples given was on Calculating the waste
  • Mr. Janaradhan’s, work is impressing
  • Community culture is very important and difficult to leave very easily
  • Systems do not support the community
  • Awareness is very important, system need to be challenged
  • We start and they others change
  • Positive thinking is very important

Session 4: Culture and Development – Mr. Shankar

Mr. Shankar stated that he is not a historian to tell any history but is instead an activist. He shared how he saw the growth/evolution of culture from time to time from his own understanding and how the development was seen from its nature/characteristics. He presented on “Culture and Development “.

Session 5:- Community Culture and Sanitation – Mr. Prahlad I M

Mr. Prahlad presented on the Toilet cultures. He mentioned that there is culture even in sanitation. He also explained the evolution of sanitation through the ‘Sanitation ladder’ from the dry latrines of the earlier days to modern day flush toilets. He also talked about how the caste dimension of the earlier day dry latrines which were cleaned by the lower caste people (manual scavenging). He also highlighted the culture of the non-usage of constructed toilets and showed an image of a toilet being used as a ‘Puja room’!

Session 6 :- Exploratory study  - Mr. Kumar

This was followed by the presentation of the study on culture of toilets done by Amarendra, a CHLP fellow. The study was conducted in Bachchaw village in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh between September and November of 2014. This was an exploratory study on the sanitation practices and their cultures. Amarendra provided a definition of culture as defined by the 5 aspects of Values, attitudes, assumptions, beliefs and behaviours. The study was with a sample of mothers of children under 5 years in the community for their sanitation practices and evaluated on the 5 aspects. Amarendra had trained a female assistant to ask questions to the women in the community. The quantitative findings of the study were then shared with the participants.

Session 7:- Sustainable Sanitation – Ms. Janelle de Sa

Janelle De Sa Fernandes, a team member of SOCHARA then presented on the concept of sustainable sanitation. She presented the concept of ‘sanitation beyond toilets’ into wastewater treatment. She provided for the definition of sustainability. She highlighted the conventional wastewater treatment methods and its disadvantages. She then presented the Duckweed based wastewater treatment and the sustainability aspects of it both from an environmental angle as well as from a livelihood angle. She then showed a video of the work done in Mirzapur by an organization called Prism which has tied up duckweed cultivation on wastewater for water purification as well as for fish rearing. She then proposed that this could be thought of as one concrete action plan that could come out of the sanitation workshop.

Session: - 8 Plan of Action by team

This session entailed a Group exercise for developing a plan of action on the new paradigm.

Plenary of the group work

As requested the participants has been divided into 3 groups to prepare a plan

  • POA for Tamil Nadu , Based on the experience
  • POA for Bangalore Urban
  • POA for Rural Karnataka

POA – Tamil Nadu: Based on Swacch Bharat guidelines

  • Following action points were presented by the group from Tamil Nadu
  • Sensitization workshop to orient people to Swaccha Bharath
  • PRI (Panchayati Raj institutions)
  • Sanitation workers/Pourakarmikas
  • NGOs/ CBO’s
  • Gap analysis in the mission document with TN context and implementation
  • Pavalandur – Photo voices interventions for toilet building
  • Thanjavur :- Enquiry among SHG women about toilet building wage and need based training

POA for Bangalore Urban: Work with the community and empower them since the public systems are fragmented and corrupt. Two major issues were discussed and plan of action was prepared according to that.

  • Public Toilets
    • Mapping Location of toilets
    • Awareness building to community through
      • Visual aids
      • Media: “Plan your urination”
      • Family-oriented awareness – involve both men and women in awareness programs. 
    • Training for solidarity groups and community building
    • Management: Should be by the local government. Sensitize local/opinion leaders to facilitate the utilization of toilets
    • Child-friendly toilets
    • PPP and public toilets?
  • Waste Management
    • Penalty for non-segregation of waste (Advocacy level work)
    • Community compost pit (In Apartments, School and Anganwadi’s)

POA for Rural Karnataka

  • Money shortage:  Interest-free loans for construction of toilets (Gulbarga and Davangere)
  • Awareness programs through street play, illustrious/instructive pamphlets, awareness camps (2-3 days), NGOs and other civil society, create awareness about models that are already working in other places
  • Water-shortage: promoting rain-water harvesting.
  • Identify households that do not have toilets and raise this in village panchayats and involving elected representatives for the work.

Action points discussed and agreed by the team

  • Strengthening Urban sanitation work
  • Networking with Karnataka Jnana Vignayan Samithi in all 30 districts of Karnataka.
  • Monitoring Sanitation network activities in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
  • Orientation program through Vimukthi in Belgaum for PDO’s from Chikkodi Block on Environmental Sanitation.
  • Gap analysis study in Tamil Nadu
  • Working on Anganwadi sanitation and Waste management in Bangalore Urban.