Positive correlation between higher levels of education for women and toilet use

A study found that toilet use was higher in households that had a high standard of living, higher educational levels among women and that were located in urban areas.
Toilet use in India (Source: Sourabh Phadke) Toilet use in India (Source: Sourabh Phadke)

India continues to have the highest number of people defecating out in the open according to recent figures by the World Health Organisation with only 32.7 % of people in rural areas having access to toilets (Census 2011). The Swachh Bharat Mission was launched by the government in 2014 in response to this poor sanitation situation in the country.

The working paper titled 'Demand for household sanitation: The case of India' published by Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT), argues that the Swachh Bharat Mission which plans to build 110 million toilets across India between 2014 and 2019, is a supply based initiative. The underlying presumption is that the poor in India cannot afford to construct a toilet, and therefore need government intervention. However, the success of the initiative and the social returns in terms of better health outcomes can only be achieved when people start using these toilets, and stop defecating in the open.

The study

This paper presents the findings of a study that explores the factors affecting the decision to use toilets by analysing data from the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-3), which contains information about toilet use based on various household characteristics namely, gender, religion, area and geography.

The findings

  • The use of toilets is considerably low among households residing in rural areas who are economically poor. Households who are economically better off and have access to a bank account, have a larger proportion of toilet users among them.
  • Level of education among women in the house is related to toilet use. A household in which a woman has attained higher education is 3.1 times more likely to use a toilet when compared to a household where a woman has attained education till only preschool.
  • As the level of urbanisation increases, the probability of a household using a toilet also increases.
  • The odds for a Muslim household using a toilet is 5.4 times higher, while that of a Christian household is 1.3 times higher when compared to their Hindu counterparts.
  • The use of toilets is much higher in households in the Northeastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya etc. and the southern state of Kerala as compared to that in Delhi.

The paper ends by arguing that:

  • Governments from developing countries such as India should concentrate on demand creation for using toilets and ensure that a larger proportion of funds are directed towards the IEC component of the policy.
  • Use of toilets can be improved by policies that aim to increase education levels among women, focus on women and increase the participation of women.
  • There is a need for government policies to focus on improving sanitation in rural areas by combining it with rural education initiatives and measures to improve financial inclusion for the households.
  • The policies should recognise the connect between caste and sanitation and work on motivating people to adopt latrine use by making attempts to eradicate the dehumanising practice of manual scavenging, empowering lower castes by encouraging them to pursue alternative jobs, and providing the poor with subsidies to construct latrine facilities.

Lead image source: Sourabh Phadke in CONRADIN, K., KROPAC, M., SPUHLER, D. (Eds.) (2010): The SSWM Toolbox. Basel: seecon international gmbh. URL: http://www.sswm.info

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