Embedding a capability approach within sanitation marketing

Dani Barrington, Srinivas Sridharan, Stephen Graham Saunders, U Amjad, Jamie K. Bartram, Katherine F. Shields, Regina Souter, Semisi Meo, William Aalbersberg

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Sanitation marketing aims to improve community well-being through its core practices of innovating sanitation products and services (e.g., toilets and waste management services), stimulating demand for ‘improved’ sanitation, and strengthening sanitation markets. Sanitation marketing practices appear to implicitly consider human rights principles, as they aim to ensure that communities enact their rights to privacy and dignity when using sanitation products and services, while at the same time upholding community rights to life by reducing sanitation-related illnesses, deaths, and violence (UN Water, 2008). However, there is the question of whether sanitation marketing fully incorporates a Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) to Development that particularly recognises the right to self-determination (UN Development Group, 2003). That is, the fundamental human right that enables people to develop and progress socially, economically, and culturally in a manner that they themselves determine. Self-determination is a unique human right in that it is recognised in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and is the only human right that is applicable to both collectives and individuals. The extent to which sanitation marketing practices explicitly recognise the right to self-determination is unclear, as most sanitation marketing initiatives attempt to achieve well-being by changing ‘bad behaviours’ to pre-determined ‘good behaviours’. By predetermining what are ‘good behaviours’, even with active community involvement, sanitation marketing runs the risk of denying people their rights of self-determination. Hence, to adopt a true HRBA, sanitation marketing must explicitly aim to enable rights-bearers to realise and enact their rights to self-determination. To achieve these aims, we propose that sanitation marketing practices should incorporate some of the main components of the Capability Approach (Sen, 1999, Nussbaum, 2011). The Capability Approach is well aligned to the HRBA as it considers the right to self-determination as a substantive ‘freedom’ (i.e., the opportunity to choose and to act), and ascribes an urgent task to sanitation marketers to improve well-being, as defined by their community capabilities. We present the main components of the Capability Approach, and relate it to sanitation marketing practices. We then explore some implications of embedding and putting into practice a Capability Approach within sanitation marketing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
EventWater & Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy - The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, United States
Duration: 7 Oct 201411 Oct 2014


ConferenceWater & Health Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityChapel Hill
Internet address


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