More than half of all families in rural Nepal have to go to toilet in the open.

Nepal ranks as the lowest country in Southern Asia in terms of sanitation coverage.

Rural areas are often far from water supplies and a lack of sanitation means that the spread of disease is rife. Thousands of children under the age of five die every year as a result of diarrhoea-related illnesses.

Tearfund has several partners working in Nepal to address the urgent need for sanitation – and help communities understand the link between poor personal hygiene and the prevalence of diarrhoea.


The toilets are in Nuwakot District, north of Kathmandu.

The project

Our partner is helping families to learn about the need for toilets, and how hygiene principles such as hand-washing will improve their health, by teaching illiterate women how to read and write.

The literacy programme is called “Life Relevant Education” – and it enables women to read about important issues that affect their daily life. One of the chapters talks about how sanitation helps to prevent the spread of disease.

As a result of reading this chapter, most of the women go on to build latrines for their families – because they have understood how having a toilet will transform life for themselves and those they love.

Cultural and social changes

Women involved in the literacy programme encourage each other to build latrines, and to use them. This accountability among the women has outlawed open defecation on main paths around the villages.

The empowerment of women has also addressed gender imbalances. In Nepalese culture, men tend to think that women should only have the role of home-maker.

But they say that improvements in literacy, and the building of toilets, has made many husbands re-think the role their wives play. As husbands have learnt to share responsibility for income-generation, and the well-being of the family, this has lifted a burden from their shoulders, and made families stronger.

A catalyst

Many of the women are spurred on by the success of building toilets, and reducing sickness, to tackle other issues in their communities. The partner has seen the Life Relevant Education programme become a springboard for school building projects, micro-finance groups, small businesses starting up, rubbish being cleared from public areas, and paths being improved and maintained.