Case study: Community led total sanitation

08:13 A

Tuesday 28 September 2021


In 2019-2020 UNICEF is supporting Jabal Mara Charity Organization for Rural Development (JMCO) to implement community-led total sanitation program (CLTS) in Abu Guradil administrative unit; the area is in Um Dukhun locality, Central Darfur and close to the border of both Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). Abu Guradil administrative unit comprises 24 communities with an estimated total population of 97,640 individuals (51% female). The area is currently experiencing population movement as people who in the past fled their villages due to conflict or natural disaster, return from the Central African Republic, Chad and from other Darfur states. Most of the population are nomads and famers; Abu Guradil has more than 20 tribes that include Salamat, Fur and Burno.

Traditionally men dominate the planning and decision-making process around key issues including water and sanitation provision. However, women commonly work throughout the year in agriculture, building houses from local materials, collecting firewood and fruits to sell, fetching water and taking care of the family. The inclusion of women in decision-making outside the home has been rare – until recently.

While women are busy with these chores, men spend their time in the market with livestock, and are busy making decisions for multiple households; 80% of men have more than 2 wives.

Having no latrine at home exposed women to additional stresses; they face harassment when going to the toilet in the open which is usually done in the evening to maintain some privacy. However, this has led to Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and also health issues associated with not defecating regularly.

How it worked:

With support from UNICEF’s partners, water and sanitation committees were established locally. Depending on the size of the community and scope of their work, each committee has 3 – 15 members, with at least 50% women. Thanks to the tireless work of committee members, 80% of the communities have achieved open defecation free (ODF) status but their work is not finished; even when ODF status is achieved, the committees continue to meet regularly to discuss ongoing challenges of water supply and quality, sanitation and hygiene issues such as organizing cleaning campaigns, and supporting vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with disabilities to access quality services.

In recognizing the wide-ranging responsibilities and critical role of women, not only in these committees, but in tasks such as collecting firewood, fetching water, cooking and general household tasks, women’s’ voices and their priorities have been given more weight in the communities. In fact, there has been an overall shift in social dynamics locally whereby women are no longer ‘invisible’ but have enjoyed a heightened status due to the following:

  • Participation: Women were active participants throughout the process of achieving community led total sanitation (CLTS) from the early stage of consultation to achieving open defecation free (ODF) status.
  • Motivation: The commitment of women to achieving ODF status and its resulting health and social benefits highlighted the role of women as democratic and consultative leaders and advocates. A village that achieves ODF status is held in high regard by surrounding communities; a fact that is very much appreciated by men in the community.
  • Follow up: Regular monitoring and close follow up visits by JMCO and the local Ministry of Health supported the communities in achieving ODF status and ensuring the meaningful participation of women.

Lessons learned:

  • Solidarity is successful factor in Sudan: Supporting the traditional solidarity in Sudan can really help addressing the issue of vulnerable groups (elderly people, people with disabilities, and those families in poverty).
  • Community champions have significant impact: Community champions are those who are committed to implementing the CLTS process and who, through their leadership skills, are able to persuade and mobilize others in the community to strive to achieve ODF status. Several community champions are women who voluntarily lead the change in communities by becoming a role model for others.
  • Community outreach is key: Where local government is unable to meet the needs of communities, local community structures commonly step in to identify priorities, plan for the advancement and development of the local community. These structures take the form of committees and have become platforms for the discussion of meeting the common needs, and also for discussing sensitive issues such as cases of misuse of resources and unfair distribution of funding and opportunities. Previously, this role sat with the native administration which rarely consulted with the broader community and often identified priorities based on vested interests of its members. The community committees have empowered local communities to participate in decision-making and planning their own future.
WASH 2020

I will be very happy to see finally our village certified as an open defecation free (ODF) and see people thriving in a healthy environment -- we need our village to become a model to other villages

Mariam, Al Garlia village

Mariam lives in Al Garlia, a village of 1,125 households in Ab Guradil. She is well known locally as she is a community representative and a member of the local sanitation action group (SAG). The SAG which was formed to implement the village sanitation action plan, which involved mobilizing the local community to support the goal of CLTS; local UNICEF partner JMCO was instrumental in providing support to local leaders in this. Motivated by the potential benefits of the CLTS, Maraim became an enthusiastic champion for promoting sanitation and hygiene in her village. She encouraged other members of the village to join her to socialize the benefits to the village of each household having its own latrine, and to practice handwashing with soap. The power of locally appropriate messaging with local community relationships by JMCO, Mariam and other community champions has resulted in all household constructing their own latrines and ensuring the availability of soap for handwashing. Mariam explains: “I will be very happy to see finally our village certified as an open defecation free (ODF) and see people thriving in a healthy environment”. In her village, Mariam continues her role as a natural leader to encourage everyone to uphold a good sanitation status through maintaining household latrines, continuing the practice of hand washing and keeping the village clean. She appreciates the health benefits living in a clean environment has brought to the village, including a reduction in cases of diarrhea which in the past was very common. Overall, the community members are spending less on medical care expenses which is an incentive to continue to uphold the high standards they have achieved through the CLTS project; “We need our village to become a model to other villages” Maraim reflects.

source: unicef Sudan