Nudge, Don’t Shove: A Case for Reflexive WASH Behavioral Change, Part I

We were taught in the schoolyard that shoving is unacceptable behavior, yet dominant approaches to changing sanitation and hygiene practices in developing countries do exactly that - forceful pushing that takes away the time and space for a person to decide which direction they want to go. Take for example Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS): it's effective in compelling compliant behavior because it leaves people with no choice to act otherwise lest they face shaming and even stoning (Chatterjee 2011; Ngozo 2010; Devine 2009). However, bullying comes at a price. We know that bullied children suffer mental health effects for years afterwards, yet there have been no studies on the long-term mental health effects that CLTS leaves upon those who have been "saved" from open defecation. Sometimes WASH gets too caught up with its most immediate goals and loses sight of its overarching aim of improving well-being - a well-being which includes mental health, as difficult as it may be to observe and measure.

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