Maybe Community-Led Total Sanitation is familiar to you, but I must admit it was new to me before I came across the handbook. Hence, I assume there are several others out there who have not heard about it either.
Here is a brief presentation of the concept and its potential.
Community-Led Total Sanitation started as a consequence of a sanitation project in Bangladesh. A project that included the provision of costly toilets no one used.
Dr. Kamal Kar, the innovator of CLTS, realised that without changing the mindset of the villagers; and making them aware of the wider consequences of open defecation, similar projects would continue to fail.
Therefore, he developed the CLTS approach where the communities themselves are the triggers and the implementers. Outside agencies just conduct a facilitating process. They do this purely through asking questions that make the villagers understand the connections between ill health and open defecation. The breakthrough point is when people realise “we are eating our own shit.”
The facilitator walks around the village and spend time in places where people shit. This instils a sense of shame in the community members, which further stimulates the willingness to change.
And yes, the word shit is used in the handbook. You call a spade a spade.
The villagers also set up latrines or toilets with their own means.
Community-Led Total Sanitation does not involve any subsidies or inputs. Dr. Kar stresses the importance of this several times in the handbook. “We are not here to construct latrines.”
Similar to other popular concepts, such as Participatory Rural Appraisal (often not as participatory as it should be), CLTS can be misused. NGOs and government agencies implement sanitation projects, claiming they use the CLTS approach when in fact their projects involve sanitary inputs and “teaching and preaching”. Many of the facilitators also receive bad quality training. Those are, according to Dr. Kar, the main reasons why some CLTS projects do not reach the intended results.
Two major CLTS programs in India and in Indonesia in 2007 showed a minor decrease (11 and 7 per cent) in open defecation (World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society and Behaviour).
Rightly or wrongly, I tend to believe that these somewhat modest results had more to with the quality of the implementation than the concept itself.
The potential for spillover of Community-Led Total Sanitation approaches is huge. Not only into other types of WASH projects, but also into other issues where the main obstacle is behaviour and inherited perceptions or taboos.
What first springs to mind is menstruation. That has finally emerged as an issue on the aid agenda. Due to this natural phenomenon girls and women miss out on education or work opportunities and experience all kinds of struggles and constraints. I am happy to see that “Menstrual Hygiene Management” has become part of the CLTS approaches.
Another severe issue where CLTS approaches could be applied is gender violence. Most women and girls in the world are or have been victims of such violence. That has everything to with the behaviour of men and some women, and is often embedded in the culture and perceived as normal and acceptable. It cannot be reduced just through setting up toilets closer to women’s homes.
Though not all aspects of CLTS could be applied, the basic principles could: creating change without “teaching and preaching” but through triggering collective self-awareness. Not least among girls and women themselves.