A Community Hygiene Champion Transitioning his Village to Open Defecation Free

19 November 2019
WASH and Health team, Aga Khan Foundation (India)

A farmer by profession, Moharram Ali hails from Agya Buzurg village in District Balrampur of Uttar Pradesh. Inspired by the government of India’s flagship program, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), he has been a champion in transitioning his community to an Open Defecation Free (ODF) one.

It all started when SBM teams intervened in his village in 2014 for toilet construction. The intervention had a low impact as the approach was unstructured and there was no monitoring process in place.

In May 2018, Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and UNICEF started working in the area with the aim to support the SBM. Initially, gaps were identified by the programme team. This involved identifying the weak/low performing areas, mapping of the beneficiaries who were still unaware of the importance of the intervention and providing technical support to community mobilizers on effectively spreading the message of the advantages of twin pit toilets. This was followed up by the planning of several meetings with the key village members and sanitation committee and building their capacity on mobilizing the community on responsible toilet usage and facilitating school “kayakalp” (an initiative to reward public health facilities launched in 2015 by India’s Health Ministry) plan. In addition, the role of the members was reinforced by allocating specific hamlets for the gearing up of quality construction work.

With guidance from AKF, Moharram Ali took it upon himself to champion the cause for transitioning his community from defecating into the open towards constructing toilets. Inspired by the programme, he travelled door to door to activate households on toilet construction and usage. Initially, he was apprehensive due to the sheer depth of the target and the lack of community interest in the twin-pit model. However, he closely worked with the Pradhan, and eventually motivated around 200 households to construct these toilets. While talking to a member of our team, Moharram Ali shared:

“Aga Khan Foundation and UNICEF are playing a vital role in improving community wide sanitation in my village. Along with support from key community members, together, we can make a significant difference towards sustaining positive behavior of community towards the usage of toilets. This positive spark will help my community to adopt healthy practices for lasting change.”

While working in the intervention area, AKF identified Moharram Ali as a pioneering force, who not only had a very positive impact on his community but also at the department level. He realized that providing the community with just toilets was not enough and required a more innovative approach. In Badhaideeh, many of the community members were not agreeable to construct toilets without getting an incentive from the government. Moharram Ali organized a meeting to expedite the toilet coverage and registered their names in the database. His efforts resulted in the distribution of cheques to the community for the construction of toilets. This was followed by extensive groundwork and the community was also oriented on the proper usage of toilets, prevention of diseases, and safety of children, especially girls. As a result of the groundwork, an elderly woman of Badhairpura hamlet come forward and finished constructing her toilet in the given time for further use. She was inspired by Moharram’s motivational efforts towards bringing positive change to the overall health of the community.

This proactive approach from AKF and UNICEF has helped community champions like Moharram Ali to effectively mobilise their community towards constructing toilets and changing behaviours on personal hygiene. To date, 1118 households have been reached, 1067 Independent Household Latrines (IHHLs) have been constructed, and the village has almost reached ODF status. Taking confidence from the success of his efforts, Moharram plans to reach out to the remaining community by ensuring their names are registered in the database and regular follow ups with SBM team are conducted to provide toilets to the community. He is confident that lasting change in transitioning his community to a completely ODF one is a near possibility.