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Reporting back from the 37th WEDC Conference in Hanoi- Day 1

It’s my 5th WEDC conference! This year the conference is in Hanoi, Vietnam co-hosted with the National University of Civil Engineering. WEDC Conference is a key international meeting attended by WASH policy and programme staff, academics, activists and experts. The papers will be available on-line shortly (www.wedc-knowledge.lboro.ac.uk) but in anticipation, here are some thoughts from the conference about the research and practice presented.

Can India's women lead the way to a Swachh Bharat (Clean India)?

I have just had two remarkable weeks in India with the National Rural Livelihoods Mission.  This is a national movement of, so far, 2.4 million women’s self-help groups (SHGs).  Each has about 10 members.  Then there are Village Organisations of SHGs and Federations above them.  I was there to help explore whether these SHGs and their organisations could take a lead in the drive for rural sanitation.  This involved field visits in Telangana (formerly part of Andhra Pradesh) and Bihar, and three brainstorming workshops, the last one at national level in Delhi, convened by the World Bank whic

Disability and sanitation: Making WASH fully inclusive

He is married with two children and works hard to support his family, but Martial Ramartin has spent three decades fighting the stigma of his partial paralysis, left from a bout of measles when he was just four.

As a child, his parents treated him the same as his siblings, encouraging him to learn to walk again despite his paralysed left leg, and requiring him to help with the daily rhythm of life in rural Madagascar – lighting the morning fire, pounding rice to prepare it for meals, and fetching water from an open pond at the foot of the village.

Will Narendra Modi free India from open defecation?

“Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in the open?” With these words, the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week pushed sanitation up the hierarchy of national concerns. Using the solemn speech in the annual commemoration of the Independence Day, Modi announced a new campaign to eliminate open defecation – the practice of people relieving themselves in the open – by 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth in 2019.

Reflections on the IWC WASH Conference in Brisbane

I have been puzzling to understand why I found this conference so energising and such a good experience.  In part it was the choreography and facilitation by Barbara Evans and others – what a difference it makes to have inventive ways of involving everyone and keeping us awake with bits of serious fun, and what a difference when facilitators and presenters are on top of their topics, have new things to share, are driven by controlled passion, and really enjoy themselves.  And maybe there is something Ozzie about this – welcome, openness, informality, climate.

The untold story of India’s sanitation failure, Addendum

Three months ago, a paper dealing with the causes of the failure of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in India and written by Brian Bell and myself, was published in the journal Water Policy. A very succinct summary: the TSC –the national rural sanitation campaign of India between 1999 and 2012– was a ‘good’ policy on paper, but yielded very poor results. Its valuable core principles –community-led, people-centred, demand-driven and incentive-based– did not happen in practice. The result: millions of latrines ‘planted’ throughout the country without any involvement or appropriation by the ‘beneficiaries’, severely affecting sustainability. We identified five main causes behind the theory-practice gap in the TSC: low political priority; flawed monitoring; distorting accountability and career incentives; technocratic and paternalistic inertia; and corruption.

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