Robert Chambers

India's Rural Sanitation: From lose-lose to win-win

Prime Minister Modi has set the 2nd October 2019 as the target date for rural India to be Open Defecation Free (ODF). Remarkable progress has been achieved, but there is a very long way still to go.  One major problem is partial usage of toilets.  Jamie Myers and I reviewed studies and surveys and their methodologies and concluded that in rural North India at least half the toilets that are functioning are not used by all members of the household all the time.

Action Learning: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s missing master key

The number and nature of the many forces that intertwine to trap rural Indians in filth and infections are still not fully recognised. Widespread preference for open defecation (OD), subsidised toilets, corruption, caste and divided communities, concepts of purity, population increase and density, faecally-transmitted infections (FTIs) causing undernutrition (‘shit stunts’), diminishing cognitive ability and damaging immune systems, and the multiple physical and social harms inflicted on women and girls – these are among the forces that interlock as a syndrome - a net, a trap, a prison - escape from which is fiendishly difficult.

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

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.

Reflections from World Water Week 2013

Robert Chambers

I enjoyed World Water Week.  There were some good sessions, old friends and new people to meet, and a lot to learn.  This year the theme was Water Cooperation: Building Partnerships.  The bias to water was understandable but if anything stronger than usual – my rough count is that about one session in ten was on sanitation or WASH, but that was enough to keep you busy as sessions ran in parallel and much of the time there was something relevant to go to. 

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