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Clean India

Self-Help Women’s Groups in India help change behavior around diets and toilet use to improve health

Vinay Kumar Vutukuru's picture



Sushila Devi, a mother of four in the rural Rohtas district of Bihar, India, has no significant assets and depends primarily on casual labor for income. She recently was able to take out a bank loan of INR 12,000 (US$180), which she used to construct a toilet in her family home

It was the Self-Help Group (SHG) in her village that persuaded Sushila of the importance of sanitation for her children’s health and nutrition, and helped her get the loan she needed. SHGs generally consist of 12 to 15 rural women, grouped into larger federations. They engage with formal financial institutions to help unbanked households access financial services, acting as platforms for standardized large-scale sensitization of community members on a variety of subjects.

Sushila’s actions are part of a larger change driven across Bihar by the recently launched Bihar Transformative Development Project (BTDP), commonly known as JEEViKA-II. This joint initiative of the Government of Bihar and the World Bank covers 300 (56 percent) of the blocks of rural Bihar. The project is working through SHGs to deliver awareness, training, finance, and monitoring on sanitation and nutrition in an integrated manner.

Building institutional capacity for rural sanitation: India’s Uttar Pradesh State

Mariappa Kullappa's picture
Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most populous state with about 200 million people, has historically not performed well on sanitation. According to census figures from 2001 and 2011, the proportion of rural UP dwellers with a toilet increased slightly during the first decade of this century. However, the population grew as well, meaning that, overall, 13 million more people were defecating in the open in 2011. 

Rajasthan tells an unexpected story of stopping open defecation under Swachh Bharat Mission

Mathews K. Mullackal's picture
Rajasthan has become an unlikely frontrunner in sanitation. Until recently, it was among Indian states with the lowest rates of toilet coverage. With a difficult terrain, scarce water, and low levels of literacy, the slow pace of progress was not surprising.

Since 2011, that has changed. As shown in Figure 1, the proportion of people with access to a toilet has more than trebled – from under 20 percent to nearly 68 percent. Of 9,892 Gram Panchayats, the local level of government in India, almost a third – 3,545 – has been declared free of open defecation. That includes all Gram Panchayats in five of the state’s 33 districts, with more set to follow. What has gone right?