India Activate Talk: “Out-of-the-box thinking to end Open Defecation”

UNICEF India organized an Activate Talk in Delhi on 18 December 2014. The event focused on “Innovations to support ending open defecation”. Key note speakers approached the issue from different angles including public dialogue and advocacy, policy, equity and gender and youth engagement.

Just under half of the population of India does not use a toilet. Open defecation is prevalent among all socio-economic groups in rural India although the bottom two wealth quintiles practice it most. Children are born into an environment that contributes to stunting; to repeated episodes of diarrhea and worm infestations; and where girls face discrimination and lack of dignity as they enter puberty.

In the wider social context, too few have challenged the levels of complacency and passivity that exist in respect of prevailing social norms, that have resulted in India having the highest number of people globally who open defecate; some 595 million.  The Government of India is now prioritising sanitation under the Swachch Bharat Mission with calls for everyone to contribute to the Prime Minister’s goal of ending open defecation by the end of 2019. It is now that innovation is needed.



Nalin Mehta, Indian writer, social historian and columnist.



Anshul Tewari, Founder of Youth Ki Awaaz.

Online platforms as a tool to harness the power of youth to create social movements around sanitation.

Sonal Kapoor, Founder of Protsahan.

Innovative communication approaches to change mindsets about the practice of open defecation among children from deprived communities.

Jairam Ramesh, Indian economist and Member of Parliament representing Andhra Pradesh

The role of politicians as innovators and champions for sanitation.

Swami Chidanand Swaraswati, co-founder Global Inter-Faith WASH Alliance

From temples to toilets – the power of faith to influence sanitation behavior change.

Ms. L. S. Changsan, Indian Administrative Service, Mission Director, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan  – Education for All Campaign, Assam.)

Mass handwashing with soap in schools before the mid-day meal is part of the Government of India’s essential interventions for water and sanitation in schools with the potential to reach 110 million school children.