Improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Indonesia (Story of Change)


The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) leads the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and in partnership with the Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS).

V4CP is working with 51 locally-based civil society organisations (CSOs) around the world to bridge the gap between the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their implementation within society, especially amongst low-income and marginalised communities. It does so by strengthening the capacity of CSOs to influence stakeholders and decision-makers with solid and contextualised evidence in order to get the interests of communities embedded into government and business policies and practices.

This story illustrates the value of evidence as a basis for advocacy and the benefits of working together to implement a smart strategy that fits the social context – in this case the V4CP’s CSO’s selected champions within government and society and inspired them to change minds about sanitation and open defecation.

Ending open defecation

While the Indonesian economy has grown significantly in recent years, one in eight households still do not have access to safe drinking water and over 30 million people in the country still practice open defecation[1].  To tackle this, the government set up a national Community-Led Total Sanitation programme - Program Sanitasi Total Berbasis Masyarakat (STBM) - in 2006, yet implementing it amongst communities across the country’s 17,000 islands remains a monumental challenge.


In 2016, CSOs from SNV’s V4CP WASH programme in Indonesia started to advocate for the prioritisation of sanitation at district level. They urged local governments and the private sector to increase the provision of affordable, inclusive and sustainable sanitation services and encouraged district leaders to help end open defecation at scale by implementing the Community-Led Total Sanitation programme.

The exemplary efforts of one of the CSOs - the Indonesia Planned Parenthood Association of West Sumatra (PKBI) – has led to greater collaboration between civil society and the district government of Sijunjung district, West Sumatra and inspired a multi-stakeholder movement to make the District Open Defecation Free (ODF).

This is the story of how they did it.

Voice for Change: Firdaus Jamal, Director at PKBI, West Sumatra

Firdaus has lived in West Sumatra most of his life and has noticed that most households do not have a clean and hygienic toilet. Diarrhoea is common but people do not link it with open defecation.

Here in Sijunjung, he is on familiar ground. As the daily market calms in villages around here, he often sees people heading to the river and fields to relieve themselves. Progress to change behaviour in these villages has been painfully slow. Although district governments had been tasked with implementing the national sanitation programme, very little attention had been paid to WASH issues here, and the District Water and Sanitation Working Group (AMPL POKJA) was largely inactive. As a result, stopping open defecation was not a priority on any agenda, from district through to the village level.

Faced with a problem of such scale, the Indonesian Government’s ambition to achieve 100% universal access to sanitation by 2019 and to reach the United Nation’s SDG 6 - notably target 6.2 on ending open defecation by 2030 – looked improbable. Something had to change.

The three powers

Firdaus glanced up at the customary flag of West Sumatra fluttering above the gathering field where a routine community event was being held. The colours – black, red and yellow - symbolise the three powers that lie at the heart of West Sumatra and its customary law: the government, cultural and religious leaders in the community. This had been a source of inspiration for the first step of PKBI’s strategy - selecting non-bureaucratic, open-minded people from these three powers to become sanitation champions.

He recalled the Indonesian saying: “Touch someone’s heart and you can inspire them to believe and fight for what you believe in”. His heart had been touched by the pioneering work of another local V4CP CSO, Yayasan Konservasi Way Seputih (YKWS), in the Lampung Province, South Sumatra. YKWS had worked together with the district government of Pringsewu to initiate a community-based ODF movement, leading it to be declared the first ODF district in Sumatra. 

Firdaus wanted to build on this success and felt convinced that, if PKBI used a personal approach to touch the hearts of key leaders here in Sijunjung, their chances of persuading the district government to prioritise sanitation would increase, as would the possibility of reaching out to the community to create a multi-stakeholder movement to end open defecation.

Strengthening capacity

It can be challenging for CSOs to work in partnership with the government . Firdaus and his colleagues at PKBI knew that they would not manage to convince their chosen champions unless they developed their advocacy skills and sourced solid evidence to underpin their case for change.

The V4CP WASH team provided a training programme o build PKBI’s knowledge of influencing district policy and, together with a team of research consultants, set about collating and analysing publicly available sanitation-related data for Sijunjung - such as the district and village Sanitation Access Map, the local Health Office database and SaniFOAM, a formative study on open defecation. By applying these new skills with data, PKBI created a compelling, evidence-based advocacy case on the importance of sanitation for human, environmental and economic development in Sijunjung. With these actions the CSO’s confidence increased; and Firdaus and his colleagues felt ready to put their advocacy strategy into motion.

Shifting the Paradigm

In November 2017, Firdaus joined the broader V4CP WASH team at the City Sanitation Summit XVII in Makassar, South Sulawesi. The event was attended by high-level stakeholders including Rosman Effendi, Head of the Socio-Culture Department in Regional Development Planning Agency (known locally as Bappeda Sijunjung). On hearing the tangible results from Pringsewu District, coupled with PKBI’s strong advocacy case for Sijunjung, Effendi was inspired. To Firdaus’ delight, he agreed to become a sanitation champion and to challenge the district government to achieve an ODF Sijunjung.

Effendi assembled various government agencies, as well as village heads and, in December 2017. The team set off with PKBI to Pringsewu to attend a learning event organised by V4CP and YKWS and to see first-hand which district government strategies and approaches had led to Community-Led Total Sanitation being implemented successfully. The team was inspired and stories of progress in Pringsewu started to trickle through the Sijunjung District Government.

A healthy district

Enthusiasm for an ODF Sijunjung started to escalate and other leaders from the Health Office started to become sanitation champions.  By January 2018, the Water and Sanitation Working Group had been reactivated and shortly afterwards, three villages were awarded ODF status.

“Never before had we successfully supported the government in reaching ODF status in three villages in Sijunjung District that affects more than 6,000 people in six months.”  - Firdaus JamalDirector at PKBI West Sumatra

Construction of improved latrine in Indonesia

On Anniversary Day in February 2018, to support this excellent achievement, the District Regent, Yuswir Arifin, committed to making Sijunjung ODF during in his Parliamentary speech, and declared a new sanitation regulation - the Acceleration of Universal Access Target Achievement by 2019 (Decree Number 050/305/Bapppeda-2018). Once actioned, this will require all district government institutions to accelerate progress on sanitation.

Inclusive action

Days later, PKBI’s ambition for District Water and Sanitation Working Group to become a fully functioning, multi-stakeholder platform was realised when the district government decided to accelerate change by making it more inclusive. The District Health Forum, enforces the establishment of the  Healthy Village Working Group which mandated villages to prioritise sanitation programmes. Importantly, cultural leaders and religious leaders are members of this Forum and, with their influence, the idea of an ODF Sijunjung started to reach the wider community.

Roadmap for sanitation

To galvanise this community-level support Regent, Yuswir Arifin, and Vice Regent, Arrival Boy, issued a Circular Letter to all village and sub-district chiefs, encouraging them to prioritise sanitation. They invited PKBI to organise a gathering where, inspired by the Arifin’s support and the progress made, the chiefs signed a commitment to make their villages ODF.

Triggering community involvement in improved sanitation

To transform this commitment into action, the Health Office, Bappeda and the District Health Forum initiated further meetings with various stakeholders to create a new Sanitation Roadmap that combined planning with implementation, evaluation and co-ordination, as well as ODF targets. Progress started to roll as various agency programmes started to include sanitation.

The District Water and Sanitation Working Group realised that more village-level data was needed to set targets and to develop the roadmap, so it invited PKBI to map the sanitation access in several villages. PKBI’s data showed that 26 villages had access above 75%, 21 villages which had access between 50%-74%, and 12 villages which had access below 50%. Having seen the data, the district government decided to prioritise the 26 villages with greatest access as the first in line for ODF status and invited 11 of them to return to Pringsewu District to learn more.

Collaboration for the future

Today, the implementation of sanitation policies and plans is operating effectively in Sijunjung and the term ODF is no longer strange to society. PKBI continues to work with the Sijunjung District Government and is regarded as a valued and reliable source of evidence on sanitation. It is well positioned to amplify the voices of everyone involved, from civil society and government institutions spanning communications, health and environment departments.

Although achieving 100% universal access to sanitation remains a challenge, this story demonstrates how a smart, evidence-based strategy and well-coordinated team work can deliver positive progress, and help to bridge the gap between government policies and their implementation within society.

The SNV V4CP programme continues to provide stakeholders with a body of accumulated knowledge to use when designing programmes that aim to achieve sustainable sanitation and hygiene improvement.

Working towards improved sanitation in Indonesia

    “A strong team is the foundation of a high-performing team. It has been a great opportunity to work together with PKBI West Sumatra. It is an

      excellent government partner for discussing the ODF programme and has an evidence-based strategy.” -Yuswir Arifin, Regent of Sijunjung



[1] Joint Monitoring Programme, WHO/UNICEF (2017) Progress on sanitation and drinking water.