South Asia Regional Learning Event

The South Asia Regional Learning Event (RLE) of the Civil Society WASH Fund was held in Kandy, Sri Lanka, from 8-11 November 2016. Over 100 participants from five countries; Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka attended the event. Fund projects are being implemented in these countries by Australian Red Cross (ARC), Habitat for Humanity (HfH), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Plan International, Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and World Vision (WV). The program had one day open to external organisations, and three days for Fund project staff and their counterparts focused on key content and peer-to-peer learning with two days of workshops and a one-day field visit.  A South Asia RLE Committee, with representation from the implementing CSOs in the region, was established to guide program development. 


The South Asian region has achieved significant improvements in sanitation and water coverage within the MDG period against MDG indicators and targets. The South Asian countries within the CS WASH Fund include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.[1] Whilst almost all of these countries achieved the MDG drinking water target, the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators will measure with a greater focus on water safety and resource security, setting the bar higher again. For sanitation, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka have made impressive gains almost reaching open defecation (OD) free status nationally, whilst Pakistan and Nepal still have overall OD of 13% and 32% respectively.[2] Rural sanitation coverage lags behind urban sanitation in all cases. The SDGs challenge the sector to not only reach improved sanitation but to achieve safely managed sanitation.

Overall theme

The overarching theme for the South Asia RLE was: Thinking beyond Open Defecation Free (ODF) towards the SDGs and safely managed sanitation for all.

The South Asia RLE explored the roles of CSOs, relevant government agencies and other actors in achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) and thinking beyond ODF, particularly in rural contexts[3]. For sustainability, CSOs need to work to ensure that communities are moving beyond basic to improved sanitation with the safe handling and treatment of waste, as well as supporting on-going service provision by relevant duty bearers. The South Asia RLE covered gender and social inclusion issues, particularly disability and menstrual hygiene management, disaster risk recovery and climate change adaptation. Whilst focused on sanitation, the event  also identifies effective ways hygiene can be promoted at scale as an essential partner to sanitation for holistic WASH outcomes. Water quality and treatment are priorities for a few of the CSOs in South Asia and will also be discussed in the program.

Learning objectives of the South Asia RLE include to:

  1. Improve the understanding of CSO approaches to embedding and strengthening government /change agent systems at multiple levels for demand and supply-side sanitation and monitoring, including supportive financing and incentive schemes, and systems for monitoring changes in access to sanitation;
  2. Explore approaches to ensuring total sanitation for all, particularly poor and disadvantaged households, women and girls, people living with disabilities and to increasing sanitation access in remote and challenging environments; and
  3.  Improve understanding of effective integrated hygiene behaviour change activities to ensure maximum health benefits are achieved from sanitation and water initiatives.


4 day program

Open day program


Day 1: Open Day 

Introduction to the learning event program and objectives 
Bronwyn Powell, Knowledge and Learning Manager (KALM), CS WASH Fund Management Facility

Keynote: Moving beyond ODF to safely managed sanitation for all
Keynote handout
Mark Ellery, Topic Expert/Facilitator of South Asia Regional Learning Event 

Beyond the finish line and total sanitation
Gabrielle Halcrow, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation 

Partnering with Disabled Peoples Organisations to strengthen disability inclusive WASH 
Vellayan Subramaniam and Jeyald Rasaratnam (President of Northern Province Consortium of Organisation for Differently Abled (NPCODA) 

Video: Equitable and sustainable access to safer water and sanitation in rural Sri Lanka 
World Vision 

Supporting market-side responses to demand generated by CLTS activities 
Asim Muhammad Saleem, Plan Pakistan

Australian Aid support to WASH and the Civil Society WASH Fund 
Marcus Howard, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Section, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Communities of Practice and innovation for CSOs and WASH sector learning
Bronwyn Powell, KALM, CS WASH Fund Management Facility 

CS WASH Fund progress and trends 
Dr. Paul Crawford, Monitoring, Evaluation and Review Panel (MERP)

Thematic Sharing Sessions

Sanitation marketing and financing amongst poor communities in Bangladesh
Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh and iDE  

Decision-making at the village level and ensuring women’s voice in decision-making – lessons from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
IRC Pakistan

Behaviour change communications and hygiene cost effectiveness
SNV Bhutan 

Day 2: Field Trip 

Clean water for every child
World Vision

Day 3: Workshop: Beyond ODF towards safely managed sanitation for all 

Post-ODF tools presentation
Anup Regmi, SNV Nepal

Introductory presentation on sanitation ladder in the South Asia Region 
Mark Ellery

Challenges and approaches to addressing water contamination 
Nazmul Azam Khan & Biplob Kanti Mondal, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society 

Developing a mobile desludging business: lessons from Zimbabwe
Bronwyn Powell for Welthungerhilfe

Assigning roles and responsibilities for sanitation
Mark Ellery

Working with government at scale – wider replication of project approaches
Najeed Aslam, Director (Community Development and Training), Local Government and Community Development Department, Government of Punjab 

Menstrual Hygiene Management
Towfika Khatun, Habitat for Humanity 

Levers of change in sanitation
Mark Ellery 

Workshop output: Country profiles

Day 4: Workshop

Context Mapping Presentation  
Paul Tyndale-Biscoe and Dr. Paul Crawford, MERP

Thematic Sessions

Strengthening disability inclusive WASH
NPCODA and World Vision Lanka 

Learning for impact in WASH
CS WASH Fund K&L Component/ ISF UTS

Menstrual Hygiene Management

[1] India’s high population and high levels of OD (44% overall) can distort regional figures, but as there are no CS WASH Fund projects in India it is not included in this summary of the South Asian region.

[2] WHO/UNICEF JMP (2015) A snapshot of sanitation and drinking water in the Southern Asian region.

[3] All CS WASH Fund projects in South Asia are working in rural settings. 

Organisation Duration Location Type Link Topic
Organisation Civil Society WASH Fund Management Facility Duration 08/11 - 11/11 Location Kandy, Sri Lanka Type Regional Learning Event Link Topic Sanitation Management


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