Women sanitation promoters strengthen the voice and participation of women villagers in Lao PDR

Woman sanitation promoter is holding a visual in front of a group of people outside in a rural village

Female Sanitation promoter explains the importance of a safe toilet to a group of villagers in Champhone District (Photo by Outhikone Souphome In – Sanitation Marketing Advisor, SNV Lao PDR)

In Lao PDR, our partner SNV Netherlands Development Organisation is creating opportunities for women to be part of the drive to ensure rural households can access a safe toilet with some very positive initial results.


To create demand for safe toilets in three districts of Savannakhet province, SNV and the government district water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) teams trained village sanitation promoters on the importance of sanitation, demand triggering and the 4Ps of sanitation marketing (product, price, place and promotion). As part of these training activities, sanitation promoters also received coaching on self-confidence, facilitation and presentation.


Following these class-room trainings, the district WASH teams provided sanitation promoters with practical hands-on support by accompanying them during door-to-door visits and group sales sessions; until they were comfortable and able to carry out these tasks independently.


In Lao PDR, sanitation is traditionally considered a man’s responsibility, the decision to identify and train women sanitation promoters was taken at the outset of SNV's work as part of their Water for Women project, which has a strong focus on gender and social inclusion. The idea being that involving women in this process will strengthen participation and voice of women villagers in the decision-making process to build a safe toilet.


Whilst the ambition of the program is to have equal numbers of men and women as sanitation promoters, by February 2020 the first 13 women had expressed an interest to participate and the remaining 65 places were filled by men. However, those 13 women have proven to be excellent at what they do.


Within three months of going through this process, the women sanitation promoters have been able to confidently facilitate group sale sessions and conduct door-to-door visits. More importantly, many village women have expressed their appreciation for women sanitation promoters. In particular, they have gained the confidence to approach (women) sanitation promoters directly to find out what had been discussed in group sessions that they could not attend. Women also feel more at ease to request a woman sanitation promoter to visit their homes, even in the absence of their husbands.


These early successes of sanitation promotion by women shows what is possible when women are given the opportunities and the voice that would once have gone exclusively to men. Not only are they helping their community members access safe sanitation, through women engaging with women on the topic; they also have an innate understanding of the specific needs of women when it comes to sanitation and their customers feel comfortable expressing these needs.


'The training and hands-on coaching were very useful. It helped build my knowledge on sanitation – a new topic to me. It also helped build my confidence in public speaking. I am very happy and proud that I can help our community to have better sanitation. I also receive a small cash incentive from the sanitation entrepreneur for every toilet installed through my efforts.’

Woman sanitation entrepreneur, Champone District


Though it is early in the process, it is evident that women in villages with a woman sanitation promoter have a greater voice in the final decision-making process to build a safe toilet. Anecdotal feedback from sanitation entrepreneurs (who normally deal with the men in the village) suggests that husbands are being influenced by their wives (and daughters) to have a safe toilet ‘like their neighbours’ for reasons of convenience and privacy.


The 13 women sanitation promoters have also established themselves as leadership role models within their villages. For the next round of training, some women promoters have agreed to work with the district WASH teams to encourage more women in further villages to become sanitation promoters.


We are excited to see this model expand to support accessible and sustainable sanitation solutions for the 60% of rural households in these districts that do not have a toilet as well as empower more women to be part of that change!


SNV's work in Lao PDR is supported by the Australian Government through Water for Women.

World Toilet Day is celebrated on November 19th.

On World Toilet Day, we celebrate the role of safe, accessible toilets as a building block of healthy and resilient communities.

But World Toilet Day is not just about toilets, it is also about the important role of the systems and people that surround and support adequate toilets to ensure they are sustainable and can withstand the impacts of climate change.

Water for Women partners are working hard to ensure all people within communities have access to safe and sustainable sanitation.


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