Babita Jaiswal, Chair of the Women's Network, is from Bara district in Nepal. Babita took a six-month break from her job in order to travel across Bara district to mobilise women's support for Nepal to become Open Defecation Free (ODF). She is just one of the many heroes in the story of Nepal’s journey to being declared ODF.
On 30 September 2019, the prime minister of Nepal proclaimed the country open defecation free (ODF). Despite substantial challenges, major natural disasters and uncertainties - the country’s leadership, vision and commitment to its ODF goal and beyond - to 'Total Sanitation' - has set an example in the South Asian region. This achievement reflects a resilient and unwavering commitment for better sanitation that is essential for improved health. It also puts a spotlight on the importance of long-term engagement, mutually enhancing partnerships, and an approach to sanitation development that supports continuous evidence-based learning and adaptation to dynamic contexts.
Through a successful partnership with SNV that reflects a shared, uncompromising objective of safe and accessible sanitation for all and by all, the Australian Government has been supporting Nepal in its journey since 2010.
The Australian Government's engagement in sanitation in Nepal started when it was still reeling from the cholera epidemic of 2009 in the mid-western part of the country (now Karnali Province). DFAT supported SNV's rural sanitation programme through three phases, strengthening the capacity of 1,823 WASH coordination committee members including 593 women, to plan, implement and monitor ODF progress at district and local levels; 158 local sanitation demand facilitators to raise demand for sanitation facilities in local contexts; 2,300 private sector actors to meet rising demand for toilets; and 111 local behavioural change facilitators to promote evidence-based hygiene behaviour change campaigns. DFAT support has contributed to the achievement of Open Defecation Free status of 51 Village Development Committees (later restructured into ‘Wards’) and completing the ODF declaration milestone in 12 districts. As a result, 321,359 people began living in an ODF environment, and 324,444 people gained access to handwashing with soap facilities near their toilets.
This long-term partnership - with a commitment to scale, quality, sustainable impacts, and knowledge and learning - has helped end the final frontier of open defecation practice in Nepal, and has been key in making SNV's rural sanitation product, SSH4A, what it is today.
Beyond SNV's partnership with DFAT, many others shared in the country's sanitation ambition and goals. Thousands of stakeholders from public and private backgrounds and sectors were involved. Their efforts were steered by the Nepal government's National Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan 2011 (NSHMP): the plan responsible for organising the human and financial resources behind harmonised approaches to advance the country's sanitation goals.
Among the unsung heroes who have helped achieve the ODF success, include SNV partners:
- Brick kiln owner Dhanik Lal Shah from Surunga Municipality who built toilets for three houses in the Surunga municipality for free, and donated NRS 1.5 million (19,100 AUD) worth of bricks to the poorest households in the area.
- Rajdeo Yadav, Chair of the Nepal Red Cross Chapter, who supported the campaign despite his misgivings about the no-subsidy approach taken by the programme. After witnessing first-hand how constant communication and behaviour change communications enabled entire Siraha district to become ODF, he became a believer and a promoter.
- Chair of the Women's Network and member of D-WASH-CC of Bara district, Babita Jaiswal, who took a 6-month break from her job and travelled across the Bara district to mobilise women's support for the ODF campaign.
- Each and every household, who, themselves, invested their own time and rsources into building a toilet.
Today, Nepal is an open defecation free country. But it does not end there. Along with Nepal's WASH stakeholders, SNV and DFAT are embarking on that long journey towards sustaining ODF, safely managed sanitation, leaving no one behind, and enhancing resilience. In the current SNV-DFAT partnership, management of gender and socially inclusive and sustainable rural water supply services is the focus to ensure sanitation and hygiene can be sustained. Targeting Dailekh and Sarlahi districts of Nepal, SNV hopes to help advance the current Total Sanitation campaign of the Government of Nepal.
Prepared by: Anjani Abella, Gabrielle Halcrow and Nadira Khawaja, with Mia Cusack