'Nothing about us without us' - Day 2 shines a light on inclusive WASH

Day two of the CS WASH Fund Learning and Reflection Event (FLARE) began with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) participating in a poster marketplace. The session gave participants the opportunity to engage with one another and exchange their knowledge and learnings; sharing their projects’ key objectives, lessons learnt, challenges and strategies to improve project sustainability.

Staying with a focus on project teams, the next session involved participants reflecting and providing feedback within their teams on Fund lessons and management. Facilitated by Melita Grant, Research Principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, the session gave teams an opportunity to discuss what they thought was done well, what could be improved and lessons learnt in Fund management.

Following the lunch break we moved into the focus of the day’s topic – Disability and Inclusive WASH, with a plenary address, talks from representatives from Disability Peoples’ Organisations and breakout sessions. Tarryn Brown from CBM Australia, in partnership with World Vision, facilitated a discussion with representatives from Disable Persons Organisations. Two of the representatives – Mr Watson Khupe (Federation of Organisations of Disabled People in Zimbabwe) and Mr Kevin Akike (PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons) were unable to join the event in person and shared instead their experiences and messages through video and written reflections. Mr Khupe said, 'Involving people with disabilities in WASH projects gives them a sense of belonging and equality: involving them in a WASH project is not an act of charity it is an act of human rights'. 

Mr Vellayan Subramaniam (pictured above) from the Northern Province Consortium of Organisations for Differently Abled in Sri Lanka then spoke on disability and WASH in Sri Lanka. He emphasised the need to include people with disabilities in projects from design through to implementation, and the importance that ‘there is nothing about us without us.’ Final remarks from the session left participants with a reminder that ensuring disability inclusion in WASH - both in facilities and participation - is the responsibility of us all.

The rest of the afternoon was spent between three parallel sessions on Disability Inclusive WASH: Research and innovation, Partnerships and approaches for disability inclusive WASH, and Program approaches for targeted support to vulnerable groups. Participants shared their project experiences and lessons in working towards inclusive WASH with specific presentations looking at the design of inclusive sanitation, formative research on disability and inclusive WASH approaches, social inclusion and raising awareness, strengthening the enabling environment to support inclusive WASH and specific experiences working with vulnerable groups to address access to improved water and sanitation.

With plenty of meaningful discussion looking not only at what Fund projects are doing well, but also what we can learn and how we can improve, we move into day 3 of the FLARE program and a focus on hygiene behaviour change.