Promoting Latrine Use in Rural India
In rural India, 90 percent of households do not own a latrine, and 61 percent of individuals defecate in the open. The health consequences of open defecation are long-lasting and life-threatening. As per the World Bank (2006), open defecation's economic consequences are estimated to be around US$53.8 billion or about 6.4 percent of GDP. Even though latrine use has widely been cited in the mass media as a key factor for reducing open defecation, very few quantitative studies have focused on latrine use as a primary or secondary outcome.
To address this knowledge gap in research, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) announced a Research Thematic Window on Promoting Latrine Use in Rural India which aimed to investigate multi-dimensional supply and demand factors influencing latrine use.
GEAG, in collaboration with Athena Infonomics, was selected as one of the nine teams across India to take up a formative study and employ a behavioural-science approach to the problem of latrine use. GEAG and Athena Infonomics conducted this study on “Testing social norms for uptake of latrines in rural India”.
Following were the key activities undertaken:
- Qualitative and quantitative research instruments and methodology was developed
- A pilot study was conducted in few villages of Gorakhpur for testing of research instruments
- A baseline study was designed and conducted in 5 villages of Ghazipur District
- Data were analyzed to identify core cultural beliefs, the strength of existing social norms, and existing social networks, and a few interventions were designed to test them.
The findings are crucial for Government of India’s national programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM; the Clean India Mission) as this research has gained an understanding on the psychological and cultural bases of purity and impurity, and the possible ways to “rebrand” toilet use and maintenance.