Provoking emotions to boost sanitation: triggering local authorities in Togo


WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)-supported programme in Togo is using ‘institutional triggering’ to mobilize local government commitment and action for improved sanitation and hygiene.

The GSF supports the country’s national campaign for an open defecation free (ODF) Togo by 2018, known as ‘Togo SANDAL’. The aim of the programme is to increase the use of latrines and encourage the adoption of good hygiene practices for rural populations in the Savanes and Kara regions, and in five districts in the Plateaux region. In particular, the programme aims to help 1.5 million people create the conditions to live in open defecation free communities, help 1.2 million people access improved toilets, and help 911,000 access and use handwashing facilities. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the Executing Agency for the programme, working closely with the Government, Sub-grantees implementing the programme on the ground, and diverse actors across the water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.

After several months of implementation on the ground and little progress in the programme, it became clear that it was essential to increasingly involve local authorities in the process of eradicating open defecation. False rumours and the official nature of the Sub Grantees’ activities had prompted resistance among certain communities, which were not changing their behaviours.

In light of this situation, the GSF-supported programme introduced institutional triggering, an emotionally-based advocacy approach developed in Madagascar. Similar to community triggering but targeting institutional stakeholders, it is an effective and practical approach. The approach shows participants that as long as open defecation persists in their communities, they are unknowingly eating faeces, which has a negative impact on their health and dignity. This realization provokes feelings of disgust, fear and shame and as a result, drives commitment and immediate action by the authorities.

Institutional triggering has been proven to be highly successful, with authorities realizing that sanitation is everyone’s concern. The approach has also shown that leaders have a moral responsibility towards the people they govern and that failing to act to end open defecation puts people in danger.

In 2015, an institutional triggering session was organized in the Plateaux region involving local leaders from triggered villages, heads of cantons, prefects, the regional health director and prefectural health directors. The session aimed to trigger a collective commitment by local authorities and partners to actively support regional and national movements to end open defecation in Togo, as well as help create a positive environment for long-term implementation of Togo’s national sanitation programme.

The triggering session used colourful tools with real-life examples and was adapted to the sociocultural context. The session placed an emphasis on disgust, shame and human dignity, and mobilized healthy competition between prefects, heads of cantons and villages to make their areas ODF as soon as possible. As a tangible sign of their commitment, each local authority leader read and signed a ‘statement of commitment’, before visiting a leader of an ODF village that can serve as a model for engaging communities going forward. This increased level of commitment has resulted in a number of changes:

  • Monitoring and field visits by prefects and heads of cantons
  • ODF status achieved after two weeks in communities that had been resistant to change
  • Community-led total sanitation on the agenda in meetings between prefects and village leaders
  • An end to misleading information and perceptions regarding the nature and purpose of the Sub-grantees’ work