Gifts of soap enhance Hygiene Behaviour

10 Dec 2019

The district administration of Latehar in Jharkhand has been gifting soaps to families in backward villages, located far from the block headquarters of Garu. Their intension is to seek their collective effort to fight against the practice of open defecation in their villages. The move by the block sanitation committee has enhanced people’s personal hygiene behavior.

The soaps were distributed by Jal Sahiyas (women Swachhagrahi who are members of village sanitation committee) that attend to all water and sanitation issues at each village during their weekly household visits. Preference in gifting soaps was given to families that regularly used toilets and those that kept their homes and surroundings clean and tidy.

Those visits were also used to build awareness among families, particularly women, that they found were not using the toilets. At times, the male members of the families would be asked to clean toilets. It was often the case that when the village community saw a large number of women gathered at a certain home they understood that the family was not using their sanitation facilities. It certainly was a matter of shame for the family. In due course, to prevent this, people used and maintained their toilets.

Jal Sahiya’s intervention: Commenting on this, Jal Sahiya, Hetatoli said that he adopted such strict action because if anyone failed to use their toilet and preferred to defecate in the open, despite having a toilet at home, the fault would be attributed to him – for not convincing people about safe sanitation.

All the villages in Garu block are situated in densely forest areas where people are yet to understand the importance of using toilets, despite various triggering exercises. To address this, the Jal Sahiya made a list of households and villages where people were continuing to defecate in the open despite having toilets. Thereafter he visited each of those homes personally to convince them about safe sanitation practices and the importance of hand washing.

The soap distribution exercise was carried out about six months before the village was declared ODF. The motivators found that people who did not participate in the construction process did not feel compelled to use toilets. Hence, gifting of soaps to households that used toilets was an innovative way to promote use of toilets.

This intervention has given the block officials an opportunity to re-evaluate the behavior of communities that are dis-connected with the block headquarters; as also a new way of tackling open defection. In rural Garu, people are busy with their day to day activities and often ignore handwashing. Today, while visiting ponds to fetch water or grazing animals, people are seen carrying soap in their bags. The impact is seen in school children too who have understood the importance of handwashing with soap before a meal and after using a toilet.

Inputs: Garu Block Coordinator-Mr. Raju Kumar, and Latehar IEC coordinator-Deepak

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