Bhutan boosts happiness quotient with 100% improved sanitation declaration on World Toilet Day

A large group of people are standing together for a photo in Bhutan, they are together to celebrate Bhutan 100% improved sanitation declaration

Bhutan officially declared 100% improved sanitation nationally after realising the 14-year long goal of an improved toilet for every member the population on World Toilet Day, 19 November 2022.


The milestone follows the Royal Government of Bhutan’s unwavering resolve to leave no one behind in moving Bhutan up the sanitation ladder, supported by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and development partners SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and UNICEF.


Across the world, despite accounting for more than half the population and typically bearing responsibility for household water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs, women and girls are among the most marginalised and disadvantaged when it comes to WASH access, along with people with disabilities, sexual and gender minority and other marginalised groups. In Bhutan, this is now no longer so when it comes to accessing a toilet.


“Bhutan is one of the few countries on track to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. This will deliver widespread benefits across the country and have a positive ripple effect across the Indo-Pacific region,” said Australia’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Barry O’Farrell.  “This could not have been achieved without the commitment of the Royal Government of Bhutan and the dedication and determination of all partners to reach the last mile. We are proud of our shared accomplishments and look forward to many more years of partnership with the Royal Government of Bhutan.”


On 14 September, Australia and Bhutan marked 20 years of diplomatic relations. This long-term partnership has been key to Bhutan’s success in achieving universal WASH. Australia’s support for Bhutan includes the Water for Women project with SNV Beyond the Finish Line: Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All, which will benefit an estimated 214,000 people by the end of 2022, with a focus on rural and vulnerable populations.


Australia’s Water for Women program has been supporting gender equitable and socially inclusive WASH projects and research in Bhutan since 2018. It is the third development assistance program to partner with SNV in Bhutan, supported by the Australian Government. The project applies gender equality and social inclusion approaches in mobilising the marginalised and hard to reach to install improved toilets. It also strengthens participation of women and people with disabilities in sanitation programming and entrepreneurship. This has been SNV’s approach since 2008; prioritising multi-stakeholder participatory engagement, systems strengthening, evidence-based hygiene promotion and the development of transformative leaders across all levels of the community.


“Ultimately, the partnership is all in the service of people, contributing to the achievement of their rights to water, sanitation, and a clean and healthy environment, and raising the happiness quotient of Bhutanese people,” said Kencho Wangdi, SNV WASH Sector Leader “Securing the right to sanitation doesn't stop at toilet access; it requires structural and systemic improvements in managing human waste. We work proactively with the Government of Bhutan to ensure it is on the lead and helps set up the institutional arrangements needed to sustain progress. While engaging meaningfully with people of different genders, ages, and abilities, going far and wide to learn from the wisdom of communities and co-designing WASH responses with them ensures that positive behaviours are sustained.”


Ambassador O’Farrell acknowledged that while Australia’s 20-year partnership with Bhutan has achieved significant gains for the country and the wider Indo-Pacific region, more work is needed across the region to address and mitigate climate change impacts.


“We recognise the significant challenges Bhutan faces from climate change, as wet periods become wetter and dry periods drier, and the consequent threats to rural WASH services, water quality and availability. We also recognise the socio-economic challenges this poses, particularly to women, girls and vulnerable groups, who will be most affected,” the Ambassador said.


“Australia will continue supporting SNV and our partners in Bhutan, through a Water for Women extension from 2023 to 2024. This will further strengthen the national Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme, and the capacity of national and local governments, the private sector and civil society organisations. It will include a greater emphasis on what leaders can do to improve gender equality, social inclusion, and bolster resilience to climate change.”


SNV’s Innovation and Impact work is already contributing to strengthened leadership in WASH and developing capacities and partnerships to build sustainable WASH outcomes for a climate-resilient Bhutan.


A tweet from the Deputy High Commissioner
A tweet from the Australian High Commissioner in India

Australia’s Water for Women supports improved health, gender equality and wellbeing in Asian and Pacific communities through socially inclusive, sustainable and climate-resilient WASH projects and research in 15 countries. It is the Australian Government’s flagship WASH development assistance program, partnering with civil society and research organisations and investing AUD $154.9 million from 2018 to 2024. Learn more:

In Bhutan, Water for Women supports SNV and its partners to deliver the project,Beyond the Finish Line: Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (BFL-SSH4A). This project builds on a long term SNV-DFAT partnership since 2010 to support development of the Government of Bhutan’s National Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Programme. The partnership has grown to include the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, CBM Australia, Bhutan Network for Empowering Women, and Ability Bhutan Society. 

By the end of 2022, the BFL-SSH4A project is expected to directly benefit 214,000 people through equitable, sustainable and universal access to safely managed sanitation and hygiene.

Since 1988,SNV has been designing scalable and impact-oriented programs within Bhutan's agriculture, energy and water, sanitation and hygiene sectors. SNV operates under a country agreement with the Royal Government of Bhutan, ensuring that all activities align with the country's national development priorities.

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