Incentivising self-help groups to influence improved sanitation behaviors: Evidence from rural Tamil Nadu

Research Team: Sujatha Srinivasan, Ajay Tannirkulam, Lipika Kapoor
LEAD Centre: Centre for Development Finance (CDF)
Focus Area: Infrastructure and Governance
Project Geography: Tamil Nadu


Recent evidence suggesting that sanitation practices involving latrine use in rural India are likely more behavior-led and demand-oriented than previously understood. GoI’s SBM-Grameen presents a renewed opportunity to tackle the OD challenge in rural India. This will require a shift in historical policy and programmatic focus from latrine construction to latrine use as a key sanitation outcome and pursuit of collective strategies that tackle the complex, multi-determined contextual factors influencing latrine use. To this end, this formative study aims to understand knowledge/attitude/practices around latrine use among rural households in Tamil Nadu. It also involves piloting an intervention which aims to promote latrine use among households in rural India and could be potentially designed to be followed up with a large-scale experimental study.


The study employs mixed methods approaches towards data collection during the formative and pilot phases to develop and test the intervention. The intervention targets women’s self-help groups supported by the Government of Tamil Nadu and explores their role in promoting improved sanitation behaviors among their households. Surveys were conducted with 150 SHG member households, covering a total sample of 550 household members. Qualitative interviews were conducted with select participants as well as other stakeholders critical to the success of the sanitation interventions in rural Tamil Nadu

Policy Implications

1. SBM-G envisions a strong role for community-based organisations in promoting improved sanitation practices within their communities. Results from this study will contribute to and fill gaps in existing sanitation literature, particularly around the role of community groups in promoting behavior change around latrine use, the effectiveness of System 1 drivers & tactics in redefining social norms, and shaping open defecation behavior
2. If proved, the intervention holds potential for revising sanitation incentive policies in GoTN as well as inform national policies on potential ways to engage community/women’s groups in encouraging improved sanitation behaviors