Northwestern Events Calendar


EES Seminar Series: Vidya Venkataramanan

When: Friday, February 23, 2018
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM CT

Where: Technological Institute, A230, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Tierney Acott   (847) 491-3257

Group: McCormick - Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE)

Category: Lectures & Meetings


When Technology Isn’t Enough: Tales of Community-Based Sanitation Behavior Change Programs from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean

Sanitation remains one of the big taboos in global health and development. Yet nearly one billion people lack access to or prefer not to use toilet facilities, instead practicing “open defecation.” Poor sanitation can adversely affect public health, the economy, the environment, and the safety and dignity of people. Over the decades, approaches to improve sanitation, particularly in rural areas, have shifted from an engineering-heavy focus on infrastructure to a focus on changing human behavior. Of these behavior-change programs, Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) has become the most popular approach used by both governments and non-government organizations. CLTS uses participatory and often shocking techniques to “trigger” change in communities and have them take action on their own to improve sanitation. In this seminar, I will discuss my dissertation research on variations in CLTS implementation using seven case studies from Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda, Niger, and Haiti. I will highlight relevant lessons for community-based water and sanitation programs, and other interventions predicated on changing behaviors through community engagement and participation. I will also briefly discuss my current postdoctoral research on a community-based pilot program to mitigate urban flooding using green infrastructure in the South Side of Chicago.

Vidya Venkataramanan is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Water Research and Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University. She is interested in understanding the role of community engagement and participation in water, sanitation, and environmental sustainability programs. She received her B.A. in International Relations and M.P.H. in International Health from Boston University. She worked as a tuberculosis program evaluation specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as an infectious diseases researcher at the Public Health Foundation of India. Seeing that poor sanitation and hygiene were the root cause of far too many public health challenges, she went back to graduate school to better understand ways to improve sanitation programs. After earning her PhD in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill in August 2017, she recently joined Northwestern University. Here she will be studying community perceptions and impacts of “green” stormwater management interventions to prevent urban flooding in the South Side of Chicago.


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