Local traditions inspire Open Defecation Free movement

Local traditions inspire Open Defecation Free movement

‘What you see here is not just a team, but ONE BIG happy family dedicated to improving the sanitation situation in South Lampung,’ explained Dedy Prabowo.

It has been six months since SNV concluded its rural sanitation STBM (Sanitasi Total Berbasis Masyarakat) project in Lampung. On 28 March 2018, SNV Indonesia visited the District of South Lampung as part of a post-project evaluation study. Dedy Prabowo, who was then SNV’s STBM project field officer, warmly welcomed us and introduced us to his sanitation ‘family’. The following story shows how family and mutual cooperation served as key drivers to sustain good sanitation and hygiene practice well beyond the formal conclusion of a project.

We are all in this together: women play an equal role in building toilets

We are all in this together: women play an equal role in building toilets

Indonesia is a country with more than 380 ethnic groups that have different customs, languages, values and cultures. Many of the local customs and beliefs that exist have been preserved throughout the generations. Such examples include kekeluargaan, which refers to non-blood related family and gotong royong, which translates to mutual cooperation.

The STBM approach

It was 2014 and SNV just started its four-pillared rural STBM project [1] in the South Lampung sub-districts of Candipuro and Tanjung Sari. Of the 125,000 residents in 2014, 7,300 people had no access to toilets, 36,000 people were using poorly-functioning sanitation facilities, and 62,400 people had no handwashing station.

Towards tackling these, SNV together with the local district governments implementing STBM in Lampung Selatan, formed a community-based movement called Swasembada WC, which means toilet self-sufficiency. The Swasembada WC movement built on traditional values of solidarity to create demand for sanitation and to promote improved hygiene.

Similar to many new programmes, Swasembada WC was met with residents’ scepticism. But once they understood the importance of WASH for the community, they took a 180 degree turn and supported the movement 100%. Everyone felt that they had to contribute. All levels of the community embraced the spirit of gotong royong (mutual cooperation).

Gotong royong and kekeluargaan in action

In the village of Banyumas, gotong royong mobilised the village chief, residents, and staff of local health centres to construct toilets for vulnerable groups, including the poor, elderly, and female-headed households. The Indonesian army provided free labour to assist.

“This is our way to pay back to the community,” said M. Roshid Ridho, member of the Swasembada WC. “We hope that we can make a positive difference for ourselves, our family, and for future generations.”

Residents and military personnel build septic tanks together

Residents and military personnel build septic tanks together

In an elementary school in Titiwangi village, when the school discovered that some student were living without toilets in their own homes, a donation drive – Seribu Rupiah (one-thousand rupiah) –was initiated. A donation box was set up every Fridays for students who wished to donate IDR 1,000 (approximately US$ 0.07) to provide families with the opportunity to build their own toilets. The value of kekeluargaan applies in this context – a willingness to extend help beyond blood relations.

STBM achievements and legacy

By July 2017 the Candipuro and Tanjungsari sub-districts were declared open defecation free. By the end of the project, more than 20,000 households gained access to environmentally-safe toilets and 97% of the 25,000 households installed handwashing stations.

Most significantly, social norms and perceptions have changed, sanitation and hygiene have become both a need and a priority. There is now deepened understanding about how improved sanitation and hygiene behaviours impact positively on one’s personal health, and those of others. Furthermore, with toilets installed, residents no longer fear for their safety. No longer is there a need for them to go out at night and relieve themselves in insecure locations.

To honour the community’s hard work, Swasembada WC was awarded the AMPL/WASH Award (Air Minum dan Penyehatan Lingkungan/Water Sanitation, and Hygiene) during the 2017 National Water and Sanitation Conference (KSAN), which was organised by the Indonesian Water and Sanitation Working Group.

Today the Swasembada WC team is driven by an ambition to expand the STBM approach beyond the two sub-districts and to realise an open defecation free South Lampung District that will benefit its one million residents.


[1] The movement’s activities are based on four main pillars: 1) awareness raising; 2) applying an emotion-based approach, using nurture and affiliation to trigger positive behaviours, in addition to health-driven messaging; 3) providing mutual assistance, especially in support of more vulnerable groups; and 4) fostering selflessness to contribute to the community’s well-being.

Photos: SNV Indonesia