Steering a behavioural transition: from open defecation to toilet usage for sustainability  

Photo: A toilet celebration // Friend in Need India Trust

Date: May 29, 2024
Date: May 29, 2024
Time: 13:00 - 14:30
Start date: May 29, 2024
Event summary: SweDev and SEI are happy to present Dr. Shyama V. Ramani as the keynote speaker for the next Dialogue on Development Research on 29 May.

SweDev and SEI’s Development Policy and Finance Team are happy to present Dr. Shyama V. Ramani as the keynote speaker for the next Dialogue on Development Research on 29 May, 13:00-14:30 CEST.  


Join Professor Dr. Shyama V. Ramani on 29 May at 13.00-14.30 CEST as she discusses her research focused on steering behavioural transitions from open defecation to toilet usage for sustainability. For decades, low- and middle-income countries have been trying to address the problem of open defecation (OD) by building basic low-cost toilets and coupling this with education drives for behavioural change. Though OD has reduced drastically overall, progress is deemed too slow in 30 countries, and OD has increased in another 10. Dr. Ramani’s research contributes to understanding tipping points for social norm transitions around defecation behaviour. The study shows how village characteristics, existing social norms, sanitation programs’ features, and the evolving confidence of community members in using toilets drive the dynamics. Some villages transition to open defecation free, while others stagnate or even revert to OD. This highlights the importance of targeted interventions to influence tipping dynamics and achieve sustainable open defecation free communities. 

The dialogue will include a discussion with Dr. Nicholas Igwe, Founder and National Coordinator at OPS-WASH, as well as time for questions and answers from the audience.   

About the speaker

Dr. Shyama V. Ramani is a Professorial Fellow at the United Nations University (UNU-MERIT) with over three decades of research and teaching experience. She holds a PhD in economics from Cornell University.  

Professor Ramani is also a serial academic and social entrepreneur. She founded the charity “Friend in Need India Trust” and the social enterprise “SITE4Sustainability“, which explore how to drive positive change through charitable and market-based solutions.   

About the discussant   

Dr. Nicholas Igwe, founder and National Coordinator at OPS-WASH (Organized Private Sector in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and a member of the Continental Africa Water Investment Programme (AIP) panel and the National Task Group on Sanitation in Nigeria representing the Private Sector. He is a chemical engineer with specific qualifications in polymer and water engineering. He founded Zenith Water Projects Limited, which aims to provide innovative water technology solutions across Africa.   

Welcoming remarks by Carly Evaeus, Project Manager at SEI  


  • Opening remarks  
  • Keynote presentation  
  • Discussion  
  • Q&A session  
  • Concluding remarks