Fun, interactive games to encourage toilet use

By Sonia Saraf, Final Mile

Our last blog post discussed the first pilot idea of encouraging toilet use by activating new social norms through the use of internal group members. The second part of the pilot looks at using fun, interactive games that will encourage toilet use by managing negative feelings associated with toilets, and by making toilets more convenient and personal.

During our research, we often heard people say that toilets were small, dark, smelly and claustrophobic. It was an added effort to use them; also, more water was required to use them. Men were apparently “saving the toilet for the women” as they feared that the toilet pit would fill up quickly, due to frequent usage by many people. Other uncertainties were expressed as well, as is the case with using anything new and unfamiliar.

We have designed various games, each with a specific focus. The first game will educate people on how they can make toilets more convenient and entertaining, and by increasing the functionality of the toilet. In this game, people get to design their own toilet using certain items provided. Through this process, they will understand how the toilet can be made more comfortable by adding light and ventilation, increasing the availability of water by adding a storage facility, and eliminating foul odour.

ImageA water drum placed outside the toilet, connected to a smaller bucket inside. This ensures water stored at the toilet.

The toilet can also be made more functional by adding items such as door hooks for towels, soap brackets, a mirror and a shelf to keep one’s comb, shaving kit, nail cutter or scissor. People will see how toilets can be kept clean by using sweeping brooms, curved toilet bowl cleaning brushes and disinfectants such as Harpic. Toilets can be made more entertaining by adding items such as reading materials, wallpapers, a blackboard with chalk to doodle upon, and even glow stickers. A personal touch can be added to toilets by painting them with different colours or adding name plates to the door.

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Mirror and shelf, and hooks for towels or to hang clothes add functionality to the toilet

The second game aims to eliminate uncertainty around how long it takes for the toilet pit to fill up. As per our research most people currently think it takes 6 months – 1 year for the toilet pit to fill up. We have devised a game that will eliminate this uncertainty. In this game, people will be given a small transparent model toilet and they will have to guess how much water and how long it takes for the model toilet pit to fill up. The game is designed such that sponge placed around the pit will absorb most of the water and it will take much longer for the pit to fill than people are likely to estimate. People will understand that a similar principal is at work in the actual toilet; where most of the liquid matter is absorbed by the surrounding soil and it takes the pit takes much longer to fill up than they had anticipated.

The third game educates people on what to do if and when the toilet pit does actually fill up. People will be given various choices such as calling the panchayat, constructing a new toilet and calling a maintenance number and they have to choose a correct option by eliminating the false options in a thinking puzzle game. This game will make people aware that they do not have to construct a new toilet if the current pit fills up. They can simply call a maintenance number and a cleaning service will come to empty their toilet pits.

The last educative game is targeted to manage uncertainties associated with using anything new. In the case of an Indian toilet, people often get confused about the right way to face while defecating and are often embarrassed to ask others. Our fourth game will eliminate this uncertainty from people’s minds by informing them about the correct direction to face in the toilet.


 Footsteps marked on the toilet pan demonstrate which direction to face, when using the toilet

The above games were devised after extensive research around non-usage in North and Central Karnataka. Some of the ideas were tested in an experiment form in a few villages and proved quite effective. FinalMile is hopeful that the same will be the case in the pilot that will be implemented early next year. We will post some more updates as we test some of these ideas on the ground.