Swasth Seema: A village's journey towards ODF status

Seetha Gopalakrishnan
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 12:55

Not unlike most villages that make up rural India, Seema in Rajgir block of Nalanda district showed little interest in structured sanitation. Open defecation was rampant and a sizeable chunk of the village’s earnings was spent on tending to the ill and diseased. Little did the villagers know that a change in tradition was imminent.

Supported by the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF), NRMC India took it upon them to alter Seema’s plight for good. Once the village was chosen and problems were identified, along with the village elders, influential individuals were briefed on the importance of sanitation and a decision was made to adopt the community-led total sanitation (CLTS) approach to change the sanitation scene.

Thematic meetings were held and street plays were organized to garner the support of the locals. The village sported posters denouncing open defecation, primarily targeting associated sentiments of fear and shame. Panchayat leaders, along with women and children were roped in to change sanitation related attitudes deeply ingrained in the minds of people and gradually open their minds to the use of toilets. Initially, a resolution was passed by the Gram Sabha to erase open defecation from their village in a gradual and methodical manner.

A monitoring committee was appointed to ensure that villagers cover their faeces with sand or ash in case they defecated in the open. Once toilets were constructed, the same committee was in charge of making sure that no one from the village defecated along road sides and open plots.

Repeated visits and meetings with villagers and their leaders for about four months slowly began yielding results. Residents volunteered to construct toilets in their homes and the collective action snowballed.  

Villagers were not given any subsidy for the construction of latrines. However, technical support was provided by the Nalanda District Water and Sanitation Committee and the GSF team. A sense of ownership, something very crucial for long term sustainability of toilet use, slowly crept into the minds of some of the users. One of Rajgir’s proud open defecation free (ODF) villages, Seema and her residents have since become more health and environment conscious.

For more details about the processes and functionaries involved, download the documents listed as attachments below.

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