Case Study

Soap Stories and Toilet Tales: 10 Case Studies

Publication Year:
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

This collection of case studies highlights that existing norms, habits and attitudes can be transformed when the motivation for adopting appropriate sanitary or hygienic behavior is understood.



The importance of the safe disposal of human excreta and handwashing with soap as critical public health interventions for rural and urban com- munities is undisputed. We know that community-wide, consistent use of latrines, combined with adequate handwashing can drastically reduce the disease burden among children and their families. What is important is the course of behavioural and social change in communities, schools and individuals that takes place resulting from these interventions, and the more far reaching development outcomes of these processes.

This collection of case studies highlights that existing norms, habits and attitudes can be transformed when the motivation for adopting appropri- ate sanitary or hygienic behavior is understood. In this process, social development outcomes emerge as central drivers for change. Privacy, dignity, affiliation and pride are important catalysts that function both as a means and an end in improving hygiene and sanitation behaviours.

The central role children play in creating hygienic schools is highlighted in the stories from Egypt, India, Senegal and Nepal. Provision of appro- priate facilities such as separate toilet blocks for girls in schools leads to higher attendance rates, especially once girls have begun menstruation and require privacy. The Bangladesh tale demonstrates how interperson- al communication can change strong taboos around menstrual hygiene, whereby girls are allowed to hygienically manage their menstruation with- out being stigmatized.

The Bolivia, Nicaragua, Zambia, Cambodia and Sierra Leone case stud- ies describe how collective processes of change in communities have re- sulted in Total Sanitation. By focusing on eliminating open-defecation, the conditions of a whole community can be transformed. Keeping a clean and healthy community can help build and maintain community morale.

UNICEF is proud to highlight the various courses schools and communi- ties have taken to improve their lives, and how sanitation and hygiene can be an effective entry point for broader social development. This package has been developed with input from the respective UNICEF country offic- es, with support from Maggie Black. The stories are intended to provide a closer look at the human side of the daunting sanitation and hygiene statistics. With the many challenges, there are also many victories which this series attempts to capture.


Case Studies

  1. Egypt: Empowered for good
  2. India's "clean school and village" movement
  3. Senegal: "Building for life" – in the midst of civil insurgency
  4. Bolivia: A new-fangled device arrives in the Bolivian Altiplano: the toilet
  5. Cambodia: Village decides to bring sanitation closer to home
  6. Zambia: Chief Macha's toilet revolution
  7. Nepal's school-led total sanitation seems unstoppable
  8. Sierra Leone: singing about the unmentionable
  9. Nicaragua: "being dirty had to end"
  10. Bangladesh: tackling menstrual hygiene taboos

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