Hygiene and Sanitation in the Pacific - Keeping Our Stories Going

Bronwyn Powell on 1/12/2015 12:06 EST

CS WASH FUND Pacific Regional Learning Event: E Discussion #2 - December 2015

Recently approximately 90 WASH practitioners from five Pacific countries met in Suva, Fiji to share experiences on hygiene and sanitation and other WASH issues and learn together (17-20 November 2015).  The occasion? – the first Pacific Regional Learning Event sponsored by the CS WASH Fund.  The group included CSOs working on CS WASH Fund projects, government representatives and other partner organisations, and WASH practitioners from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.

We had a full and exciting week and one area of discussion, hygiene and sanitation (H&S), saw us focusing on:
•    Relating personal stories about H&S and how we encourage others to adopt healthy behaviours
•    Visiting two informal settlements and two schools to see how they are wrestling with WASH challenges
•    Doing joint analysis to unravel the complexities of culture and taboo
•    Looking at how sanitation marketing can play a role in increasing coverage 
•    Developing strategies for change which will make a difference
We discussed how we can empower women to take a leading role in WASH decision-making and encourage men to share household work and get more involved in promoting H&S at home.  We talked about how we can support teenage girls and women, and get the whole community to support improved menstrual hygiene management.  And we looked at how we can work better to support government and the private sector so that everyone plays their part in effecting real and long-lasting change on hygiene and sanitation.

Stories kept us going and gave us the ideas and inspiration for new ways of doing our work. We would like to keep the stories and dialogue going and go a bit deeper in analysing behavior change issues.  So we need your help.

A few stories to get us started:

Kevin Akike (PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons) told us his story of visiting a woman with disability.  Kevin recounted how when he entered her room he was shocked by a bad smell. Being visually impaired himself, he sat down near her and came into contact with some shit which had not been cleaned up.  He saw that her carers and neighbours had isolated this woman and were not doing enough to help her live hygienically.  He used this story to explain his interpretation of Community Led Total Sanitation – that the whole community, including people with disabilities, should take part in sanitation action and benefit from improvements. Everyone working together - neighbours helping neighbours, including neighbours with disability - can ensure that everyone has, and uses, a toilet and no one suffers indignity or ill-health. 

Novi Mau (WaterAid, Timor-Leste) said that in her lifetime she had seen huge changes in Timor-Leste. When she was a child she helped her dad with rice farming and she can remember her mum coming to the fields to give her and her dad food – without washing her hands beforehand. She said that school made a big difference;  she learned to wash her hands regularly at primary school.  She is particularly proud about the current campaign to make Timor-Leste Open Defecation Free (ODF).  The difference she says, is institutional triggering – district, sub-district and community leaders are full partners in the campaign – they take an active role in encouraging everyone to stop defecating in the open and to build toilets.  They build toilets in their own homes to set a good example and they hold each other accountable.  Her sub-district is almost 100% ODF and she says this is quickly spreading to other sub-districts and districts. She thinks that other Pacific countries could learn from this institutional triggering approach to mobilise mass ODF change.

Now it is your turn.  We would like hear one of your stories of H&S related behaviour change.  Tell your story and then explain what it means for you: 

  • What happened?  
  • What worked?  
  • What didn’t work?      
  • What can we learn from the story?

We would like to see stories about your own methods for getting community members to change their attitudes and develop new habits including:

  • Stopping open defecation and building & using toilets
  • Promoting improved menstrual hygiene management

Your stories can help us, so please find some time to write down and send us your stories – and help to keep the dialogue going! We are one big happy family!

Ross Kidd 


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