Improving rural effective total sanitation through female local government members of Union Parishad led intervention in Bangladesh (research by EPRC)


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Re: Improving rural effective total sanitation through female local government members of Union Parishad led intervention in Bangladesh (research by EPRC)

Dear Sarah

Thank you for your interest and I am sorry for the delayed reply. I was traveling.
The female local government members of Union Parishad (FLGM) are elected from women reserved seats. Union Parishad is the grass root level local government system in Bangladesh. The main activities/responsibilities of Union Parishad (UP) are grouped into thirteen categories. According to the national policy FLGM are to lead one-third of the programs.

We have reported our preliminary findings; while we are conducting the final analyses. You have raised few very important questions which, are included in our final observations. We have linked FLGM and CWG in order to strengthen the outreach capacity of UP through FLGM. One FLGM covers about 10,000 populations.

Overall, male local government members (MLGM)and the chairman of UPs initially did not mind us training FLGMs and, FLGMs promoting sanitation. Please note that the intervention project did not include financial assistance for sanitation/latrine among the poor. But some kind of tension showed up among the MLGM, chairman and FLGM, as and when the FLGM started to express direct interests in planning and distributions of latrines funded by the Government and others. We are now working on the qualitative data to understand the various kinds of tensions related to the leadership, fund, etc.

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  • SDickin
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  • I'm a research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute and a geographer interested in environment health linkages, including how water and sanitation fit within the greater sustainable development agenda.
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Re: Improving rural effective total sanitation through female local government members of Union Parishad

Dear Bilqis,
Thanks for sharing this interesting project on the forum. It's great that you found results from the intervention. Do you have any ideas of what led to increased effectiveness of sanitation? Were the FLGM better able to address gender-based sanitation needs for instance, or target overlooked groups?
I am also curious what kind of tensions you observed between UP members regarding roles and responsibilities and how this was addressed in the project.
I am hoping to do some work in West Africa looking at social capital and sanitation uptake, and some researchers have suggested that leadership is needed to 'activate' social capital (e.g. trust, social cohesion). I noticed that you involved FLGM together with community groups, which is in line with this idea. Can you elaborate on why you chose to pair the FLGM with the community groups and how working together led to better outcomes? For instance, do you think that strong community groups were a key to successful FLGMs?
Thanks in advance,
Sarah Dickin
Dr. Sarah Dickin,
Research Fellow
Stockholm Environment Institute
Stockholm, Sweden
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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  • bilqis
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Improving rural effective total sanitation through female local government members of Union Parishad led intervention in Bangladesh (research by EPRC)

Dear all,

Please find below information about a sanitation grant (by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) that I have been leading since 2012 here in Dhaka, Bangladesh:

Title of grant: Improving Rural Effective Total Sanitation through Female Local Government Members of Union Parishad Led Intervention in Bangladesh
  • Name of lead organization: Environment and Population Research Centre (EPRC)
  • Primary contact at lead organization: Bilqis Amin Hoque (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Grantee location: Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Developing country where the research is being tested: Bangladesh (Comilla and Dinajpur District)
  • Start and end date: May 2012 – May 2016
  • Grant type: Building demand for sanitation, research and knowledge sharing grants
  • Grant size in USD: $ 543,631 as per BMGF grant database here
Short description of the project:

Focus of the project is to learn whether female Local Government members (FLGM), working with women’s groups, can establish effective sanitation improvements at scale.

Research Focus: The importance of institutions in addressing long-term development challenges is well accepted, though there is a lack of empirical evidence on their effectiveness. In particular, there is little information available regarding the roles played by female leadership in bringing about societal changes such as sanitation and hygiene improvement. Although Bangladesh has made great strides since 1990 in latrine coverage, nearly 45% of the rural population still lacks access to sanitary latrines. Lack of local leadership has been shown to be an important factor influencing the adoption and sustained use of latrines and related behavior change.

EPRC is studying whether female Local Government members (FLGMs), working together with Cluster Women’s Groups (CWGs), can effectively promote sanitation, including ownership and use of improved latrines, hand washing and related hygiene practices. The FLGMs are elected reserved seat members of the Union Parishad (Council). Each UP has three FLGM that serve on the 09 members and one chairman body. Government policy stipulates that FLGMs should chair at least one third of the Council’s standing committees which in turn make recommendations for UP Council approval. The knowledge gained hopefully will contribute towards, development of effective sanitation process in Bangladesh as well as other developing countries. Many if not most countries have also been promoting a greater role for local government in sanitation campaigns. Attention to gender issues is often acknowledged as a necessary component, but empirical evidence and practical guidance on how to do this effectively has been lacking.

Methodology: The study involves a RCT (randomized controlled trial) in 32 interventions and 32 control Union Parishads (UP). The implementation aspect of the study involves supporting FLGMs to work with CWGs in order to carry out sanitation and hygiene education interventions, as well as to promote hygiene and sanitation within the context of the UP itself.

Goal(s): to ensure gender mainstreamed effective total sanitation.

Objectives: To learn whether FLGM, working with women’s groups, can lead or establish an institution for effective sanitation including improved sanitary latrine and related hygiene practices

Research or implementation partners: Jagoroni Chakra Foundation (JCF)

Links, further readings:
Documents in SuSanA library (one poster so far):

Two-page summary in Hanoi convening report by the BMGF in July 2015 (similar content to this forum post):

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Key Findings to Date:
Monitoring of intervention communities indicates that FLGM and CWG-led hygiene promotion efforts have resulted in significant changes over baseline conditions.

Preliminary data showed:
  • Rates of access to sanitary latrines increased to nearly 97% from a baseline of around 80% (over a 2-year span). This exceeded the project target to increase access by 10 percentage points.
  • Observed presence of hand washing agents improved significantly.
  • About 40% of FLGMs showed good potential for coordinating sanitation at the UP level
  • Three out of 10 “Best Practice” fact sheets recently developed for Local Government were prepared by intervention FLGMs and their UP Chairmen.
Results so far suggest that working with FLGMs improved their overall capacity as UP members and they played important roles in promoting sanitation in their Union Parishads, including both schools and communities. With CWG assistance, FLGMs demonstrated the potential to lead the drive to achieve total sanitation at the local level, in line with national sanitation policy. There have been challenges to the project which are worth considering. One hinged around incentives — as this project offered no financial or other incentives for community members (e.g., latrine subsidies; meeting attendance costs) which differed from some other major national projects. This resulted in constraints to a number of FLGMs who faced difficulties in building community participation. The rates of open defecation rarely changed as the households claimed that they couldn’t afford to build sanitary latrines.

Current state of affairs:
National and sub-district elections were followed by a prolonged period of unrest which influenced the ability to carry out project work. The project timeline had to undertake no-cost extension to accommodate this until May 2016.

Biggest successes so far:
Most communities readily accepted FLGMs in their role as promoters and coordination of improved sanitation. Level of effectiveness of sanitation has improved. Stronger leadership by FLGMs led to occasional tensions between male and female UP members regarding their roles and responsibilities. As female members’ capacity and confidence increased, they sought greater and more equitable participation in the governance process. Overall this trend is positive, though further evolution will likely need to take place regarding the roles and responsibilities of FLGMs and Community Women Group (CWGs) in the context of UP governance.

Main challenges / frustration:
The lack of affordable pit de-sludging services and treatment/disposal options are of increasing concern, especially as latrine use rises. Also, no financial support for latrine to the poorest hindered access to latrine by them.

I am available to receive your comments or questions about this project here in this thread.


Bilqis Hoque
Environment and Population Research Center (EPRC)
H #221 (2nd Floor), Road #15 (Lake Road)
New DOHS, Mohakhali, Dhaka-1206
Phone: 880-2-8822772

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