ODF Task Force: A catalyst to ending Open Defecation

Community participation and leadership are common denominators in CLTS. The Task Force capitalizes on the influence of particular individuals. The Task Force is a proven reliable method of ‘harvesting’ truly committed community leaders.

An ODF Task Force is a group of community leaders committed to ending open defecation in their community. The Task Force is formed after triggering. This community-based leadership structure has two main responsibilities: enforcing community by-laws against open defecation, and ensuring no one is left behind by supporting disadvantaged households and individuals. A Task Forces has 5 to 10 members – men and women, who come from different parts of the community. The members have a leadership profile in the community, for example as youth/women leaders or community chairmen. In some instances, preference goes to people initially opposing CLTS. After their change of mind, they often become strong advocates for ODF. The Task Force reports to the Chief, who functions as the group’s back-bone, adviser and final decision-maker.

A Task Force starts by enforcing a radical break with bad habits of the past. To this end they destroy all household and community fixed open defecation sites, such as crossbars. During the transition phase, they advise households to practice dig-and-bury. Task Force members lead by example, and feel pressure to be among the first in their community to own a household toilet, after which they support other households to do the same.

Task Force members lend their support vulnerable and disadvantaged households, but sanction individuals who willingly default. The Task Force takes them to the Chief’s palace to pay a fine. In case the Chief defaults, he will be taken to the Clan Council. In extreme cases valuables may be taken until clear evidence of toilet construction and use is presented.

In implementing CLTS, the Task Force is the spill in the process, working together with Natural Leaders and facilitators who conduct follow-up. However, arguably the most important aspect of their work is to continually awaken the community’s consciousness on sanitation and hygiene matters. This makes them important agents of behaviour change in their communities.

The Task Force members’ motivation purely follows from their conviction that ODF is the only way forward for their community. They need to balance their Task Force activities with other farming and household responsibilities, and risk physical or psychological violence from reluctant individuals. Yet, they are committed to their role without receiving remuneration or other external rewards. This leads the most motivated community leaders to stand out, who are nurtured to take the CHISHPIN project forward. After achieving ODF, many Task Force members are trained to form part of the WASHCOM.  With them lies the responsibility for sustaining the positive change in their community.