There are approximately 62 households in the West Bengal town of Frejergunj in Eastern India. This coastal community is about 120km south of the capital city Kolkata and the majority of people living there work in the local fishing industry. Many of the families living in Frejergunj do so at a heightened risk of hygiene-related diseases. This is due to poor infrastructure and inadequate toilets. As a result, open defecation is very common, with many families regularly using river banks as open air toilets.
These highly unhygienic practices put the community at a high-level of risk in relation to a range of water borne diseases. Many families were simply unable to build functioning toilets due to a lack of resources and knowledge on safe hygiene practices.
Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is aimed at achieving sustained behaviour-change by a process of "triggering" which leads to spontaneous and long-term abandonment of open defecation practices. CLTS aims to encourage communities to build toilets or pit latrines. In this instance, GOAL India sought to ensure that every family in Frejergunj had access to household toilets or latrines, in order to significantly reduce exposure to risk of disease.
One example of CLTS in action in Frejergunj is that of Jotadhari Buri, a local woman in her 70’s who was initially opposed to any intervention. When GOAL India began working with people in her community to develop hygiene practices and knowledge, Jotadhari did not understand the dangers associated with open defecation and, as such, was completely against the idea of installing any kind of enclosed structure.
"After three months of resistance and scepticism, she reconsidered and had the new toilet installed within three days"
In order to convince her, GOAL India attempted to collaborate with Jotadhari’s neighbours to bring her around to the scheme. One of the main strategies of CLTS is to leverage the consensus of the community to illustrate the advantages of installing toilets. Jotadharis was determined to ignore the efforts of her neighbours and continued to refuse any form of change to her behaviour and surroundings.
Ultimately, and with time, these community-led efforts brought Jotadhari around to the idea and she fitted a toilet with a western commode. After three months of resistance and scepticism, she reconsidered and had the new toilet installed within three days.
Today, Jotadhari Buri is mentoring other villagers to use modern toilets, demonstrating the range of benefits it brings, especially for those who have problems related to arthritis. Jotadhari is one of the 61 households in Frejergunj that have successfully installed some form of toilet or latrine since the beginning of GOAL India’s community led programme. The families living there are safer now because of it.