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Sanitation remains one of the biggest development challenges of our time, and a long-neglected issue associated with taboos and stigma. Despite growing attention and efforts, many top-down approaches to sanitation have failed, reflecting that simply providing people with a latrine or toilet does not necessarily guarantee its use.
Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) which originated in rural Bangladesh in 2000 offers a more promising alternative, by focusing on facilitating a profound change in people’s behaviour through participatory techniques. By raising awareness of the linkages between open defecation and disease through the release of powerful emotions such as disgust and shame, local people are encouraged to analyse their own sanitation situation and take action themselves.
The approach has proven immensely successful. It is being implemented in at least 40 countries, and has the potential to address several Millennium Development Goals. However, like any development success story, challenges still remain regarding scaling up with quality, inclusion of the poorest, and sustainability. There is also a danger that accounts of success may be exaggerated.