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Leaving no one behind- Day 3 at SACOSAN VI

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Leave No One Behind
Presentation by an Afghan woman (Adiba Quraishi): We women do not use public toilets. We are embarrassed to be seen going into them. During these last few days, I have learned that governments are doing a lot.

Chandan, Bangladesh: I am a Harijan [Dalit/’Untouchable’] community member, working in Shatkhira as a sanitation worker, leader of a group. I live in a community of 50 families. We share three toilets and one water point. One problem is that we are poorly paid. Men get 200 taka per day, and women get only 80 tk. The public shuns us because of the work we do. We are served tea in different glasses at the tea stall. Ironically, we are not allowed to use the toilets we clean. We must defecate in the open or use a public toilet.

It is sad, that even though we clean the city, there is little appreciation for our work. The municipality should invest in latest technology for cleaning septic tanks and pits and train sanitation workers to use it.

Statement of a transgender woman:  Once I went to the women’s toilet, and I was abused by the women there. When I went to the men’s toilet, I was assaulted. I am afraid of using public toilets. The government should recognise our needs and help us to lead a life of dignity.

Shraddha, an Indian school girl. Toilets aren’t gender friendly. School toilets don’t help us manage menstruation. We are ashamed to buy menstrual napkins because of the strong feelings about menstruation of people in our country. Schools should provide sanitary napkins.

A plantation worker, Jeyam, from Sri Lanka. My sister works on the estate. She leaves for work at 7:30 and comes back for lunch only at 1pm. There are no private toilets. When household toilet pits get filled, people must use neighbors’ toilets or defecate in the open, because the pits cannot be cleaned out. We want our government to give us enough land on the estate, so that we can construct standard houses and toilets.

A woman’s comment – I feel so guilty. Why are we only now hearing the silenced voices, who represent millions of people from our part of the world? When we go home, we must go with a strong commitment to ensure that these people’s voices are heard, that their rights are respected. How can we get into action? This is inspiring. We need a spirit of dedication. Next time we do this conference, we should have some examples to share.

Man from Sri Lanka: There needs to be more involvement of political leadership in SACOSAN. We need to look at follow-up, actions in between conferences. The marginalised, elderly, and others are “facts of life.” As policy makers we need to face these challenges. Make structural changes in the way that SACOSAN functions.

The Role of Media in Promoting Improved Sanitation and Personal Hygiene Behaviour Change
A panel of working journalists, moderated by a BBC man. (I couldn’t catch any of the names, and they weren’t in the printed programme.)

Started with a video of Val Curtis explaining principles of behaviour change, recommended by the BBC moderator.

Journalists’ main points:
Bangladesh journalist: There is value in stories with a human touch, something out of the way. These are more interesting than statistics. A group of girls coming forward to talk about menstruation definitely gets attention in this part of the world, where menstruation is a huge taboo.

Moderator (BBC man): Is good news (about social development) appealing, or do people find tragedy more inherently interesting to the audience/readers?

India journalist: Some people were being paid to use a community toilet that provided faeces and urine for use as fertiliser. This is an example of an unusual and good news story.

Nepal journalist: We do make space for good news about social development, devote a segment to this. It encourages behaviour change among the audience members. But TV and other Nepali media do not have enough research capacity or funding. So much of our reporting just covers speeches. Interesting stories are more expensive to produce.

BBC moderator: How difficult is it for you to organise a media campaign?

India journalist: Sanitation is a low priority in the media. We need to demonstrate to editors and field reporters that sanitation is important. “Orientation is very much necessary.”

India journalist: Government of India’s Swachh Bharat campaign got going last year, and the states took it over. That shift made it easier to cover the news about it.

Bangladesh journalist: Giving space to development news is “commercially challenging.” You must write on topics that interest your readers. But the media did contribute to Bangladesh’s sanitation achievements.

India: People perceive water as essential to daily life, but not toilets. ODF isn’t an end in itself. It’s about the health effects of OD. Holistic idea of sanitation includes child health and women’s empowerment.

BBC moderator’s concluding remarks: Maybe we don’t need dedicated spaces for development news. Just get creative and weave it into other stories.


Intro: Rolf Luyendijk (UNICEF, Afghanistan): The MDGs were based on the work of a small group in New York. Writing them wasn’t an inclusive process. Largely focused on developing countries.  But the SDG’s were done differently. SDG’s address the root causes of poverty, bring together human development with governance and environment. And they require accountability from the wealthier countries along with others.

Session on Monitoring

Rolf Luyendijk (UNICEF Afghanistan): opened the session with the remark, “If it’s not measured, it’s not managed.”

Bruce Gordon (WHO/JMP)did a very complicated explanation of the ten proposed indicators for SDG Goal No. 6. We are no longer collecting population-percentage data. New system is about “access to safely managed services.” [whatever that means] Household surveys will be part of it.

We’re seeking country-specific responses. Set your own national agenda, and figure out how to monitor your progress.


One very frustrated government person (who did not identify himself) asked, How are we ever going to do this complex reporting, which includes many topics that are not part of our established system? To produce information on 17 goals, 169 targets, etc., we would have to set up a new government department to do all this!

Closing Ceremonies
The Dhaka Declaration was presented. I will get a copy of it and report on that as soon as I can.

Date: 14 January 2016