Brochure, evaluation and photobook on stories of success in ending open defecation

2015 - 2016 • BBC Media Action


To document case stories of communities which have successfully eradicated or reduced open defecation in India so that stakeholders can better learn about what works and why, with the aim of replicating these successes elsewhere.


Open defecation is a serious problem in India, one that is not even perceived to be a problem by majority of people that practice it because it is an inherent habit and a way of life and is therefore accepted and adopted across generations. The only way to change habits was to start with an open mind.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation had identified several districts that performed exceedingly well during the first 12 months of SBM-Gramin. It was therefore important to review what had persuaded people to switch from open defecation to using toilets and latrines. These case studies and stories were disseminated in the form of a coffee table book and a series of five short films for practitioners to replicate similar successes elsewhere.

"An Open Mind" is an inspiring photo-documentation of 13 stories of change about individuals and communities that served as sanitation champions in different districts by contesting existing norms and addressing the need for sanitation at a personal level. It is about how they gathered traction, further support and created agency among people to follow suit to build and use toilets and thus successfully eradicating or reducing open defecation in India.

These stories are representative of the efforts of people in taking ownership of the sanitation mission in their community. Featured ‘sanitation champions’ include a man who pledged to cut-off his prized moustache unless everyone in his village built a toilet (they did); a women’s self-help group who managed to build 50 toilets for their community in one day; a 102-year-old woman who had a toilet built for herself, which incited a reaction within her community because even at her age she was willing to embrace change.

‘An Open Mind’ was also extended into an annual planner with simple doable ideas and tips around community mobilisation or inter-personal communication for sanitation, for use by district administration.

See link below for "An Open Mind".

"A People’s Movement" is a series of five short films (in English and Hindi) that showcase real-life stories of individuals from different walks of life who have made the Swachh Bharat Mission their own by adopting innovative ideas to encourage the use of toilets in their communities and adopt safe waste treatment practices. These stories are examples of a wider citizens movement across the country to encourage the adoption of safe sanitation practices.

See link below for "A People’s Movement".

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Video 1 of 5: A People’s Movement: Innovative methods to communicate the importance of cleanliness

Contact information

Reethira Kumar
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Asia & Pacific Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Enabling environment and institutional strengthening Europe, Caucasus & Central Asia International NGO Journalists Public awareness, advocacy and civil society engagement Rural Specific to one or several countries


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