About 600 mn. Indians defecate in the open every morning. Faecal contamination of germs causes fatal illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis A etc. If we could persuade people to build and use toilets we could combat and reduce this problem in a significant way. Arghyam, a funding organisation in the water and sanitation sector, entered into a partnership with Govt. of Karnataka to create a Behaviour Change Communication program. The objective was to come up with a campaign that would create substantial demand for toilet construction under the NBA-MNREGA convergence scheme.
The first step in preventing open defecation, of course is construction of toilets, since more than 60% rural households in India don’t even have toilets. Over the years, the Govt. of India has come up with many schemes to get people in rural India to build toilets at their own homes. In fact, even offering a financial incentive. But the overall construction and usage rates remain abysmal. How do we change this?
Based on our earlier work using the BCD framework for behaviour change from the London School of Hygiene we know that behaviour change is driven by emotional persuasions rather than rational arguments. In villages, most men remain as ‘boys’ for a long time. If there is one quality that women seek in their men but rarely get, it is ‘sharing the responsibility’ of the family. This is the one quality men also look up to in other men. Their idea of a good father or a good husband, is a responsible person who provides for what the family needs and protects it. ‘Responsibility’ – to provide for and protect one’s family, is a very universal and a deep motivation for men. Based on this we created a short film that told the inspirational and moving story of a man in a village who loses his parents early and takes on the whole responsibility of the family on his shoulders. A respectable, responsible husband, father and citizen. Toilet construction and usage if knit into the narrative. There were other subsidiary communications that were created to address other challenges like cynicism against government schemes, lack of empathy for women’s problems etc. We also had interventions to help simply and facilitate access to government schemes.