Women sanitation promoters strengthen the voice and participation of women villagers

Lady showing an image to a set of people.

To create demand for safe toilets in three districts of Savannakhet province, SNV and the government district WASH teams trained village sanitation promoters on the importance of sanitation, demand triggering and the 4Ps of sanitation marketing (product, price, place and promotion). As part of these training activities, sanitation promoters also received coaching on self-confidence, facilitation and presentation.

Following these class-room trainings, the district WASH teams provided sanitation promoters with practical hands-on support by accompanying them during door-to-door visits and group sales sessions; until they were able to carry out these tasks independently.

Although sanitation is traditionally considered a man’s responsibility, the decision to identify and train women sanitation promoters was taken at the outset to strengthen women’s participation and voice in the decision-making process to build a safe toilet. Whilst the ambition is to have equal numbers of men and women as sanitation promoters, by February 2020 the first 13 women had expressed an interest to participate; the remaining 65 places are filled by men.

Within three months, the women sanitation promoters have been able to confidently facilitate group sale sessions and conduct door-to-door visits. More importantly, many village women have expressed their appreciation for women sanitation promoters. In particular, they have gained the confidence to approach (women) sanitation promoters directly to find out what had been discussed in group sessions that they could not attend. Women also feel more at ease to request a woman sanitation promoter to visit their homes, even in the absence of their husbands.

‘The training and hands-on coaching were very useful. It helped build my knowledge on sanitation – a new topic to me. It also helped build my confidence in public speaking. I am very happy and proud that I can help our community to have better sanitation. I also receive a small cash incentive from the sanitation entrepreneur for every toilet installed through my efforts.’ - Woman sanitation entrepreneur, Champone District

Though it is early in the process, it is evident that women in villages with a woman sanitation promoter have a greater voice in the final decision-making process to build a safe toilet. Anecdotal feedback from sanitation entrepreneurs (who normally deal with the men in the village) suggests that husbands are being influenced by their wives (and daughters) to have a safe toilet ‘like their neighbours’ for reasons of convenience and privacy.

The 13 women sanitation promoters have also established themselves as role models of leadership within their villages. For the next round of training, some women promoters have agreed to work with the district WASH teams to encourage more women in further villages to become sanitation promoters.

Photo: Female sanitation promoter explaining the importance of a safe toilet, Champhone District (SNV/Outhikone Souphome In, Sanitation Marketing Advisor, SNV in Lao PDR).

Notes: This blog is part of the bi-annual success stories of the Beyond the Finish Line  - SSH4A in Lao PDR project supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Water for Women Fund. It was written by Le Huong (WASH Sector Leader, SNV in Bhutan).