With the deadline for Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaching and little progress being made in expanding access to adequate sanitation, many nations are turning to community-led total sanitation (CLTS) as a means to reach the sanitation MDG. CLTS is a community-driven, subsidy-free approach that motivates communities to organize to reach open defecation free status together. While CLTS has succeeded in bringing many communities around to world to open defecation free status, it has been criticized for not explicitly focusing on gender mainstreaming in spite of the recognized importance of women in creating sustainable sanitation and hygiene systems. Over the summer, I researched efforts on the state and local levels to mainstream gender in CLTS and examined the barriers to sustainability that CLTS currently faces in Ekiti State, Nigeria.
I worked closely with WaterAid Nigeria and the Ekiti-based Justice, Development, and Peace Initiative (JDPI) to identify contacts in the three local government areas that have received funding for CLTS. I interviewed local government staff in the three local government areas, and then selected one community in each local government area in which to do interviews with water and sanitation committee (WASCOM) members. Most of my time was spent in one community, Osogbotedo in Ekiti South West local government area, where I interviewed WASCOM members, volunteer health promoters, households, and village nurses.
The interviews showed that CLTS is improving sanitation in the state, but not at the scale necessary to meet state, national, and international goals. There are limited funds for continued monitoring of existing projects and for introduction of the CLTS process to more communities. Some gender mainstreaming strategies are in place, such as ensuring that there is an even number of women and men elected to the WASCOM. However, there are few gender mainstreaming mechanisms that facilitate meaningful and equitable involvement in the decision-making process at the community level.
The JDPI office, where WaterAid Nigeria's Ekiti State program is based, was constantly bustling this summer because numerous Ekiti State civil society organizations were uniting to lobby for the passage of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) legislation in the state. If passed, it would be the first WASH policy in the state. The legislation heavily emphasizes the importance of involving women and men equally in water and sanitation decisions, and frames sound water and sanitation policy as a poverty reduction measure that will benefit all, and particularly women. The final product of this research will recommend strategies to improve gender mainstreaming and create a sustainable sanitation program in Ekiti State, drawing on observations and interviews as well as lessons learned from CLTS communities around the world.