“We now know our worth” – Hygiene and Social Inclusion for those with disabilities in Siloe, Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho

Australian Red Cross (ARC) | Jenni Lillingston from Australian Red Cross (ARC) Lesotho, on 31/05/2018 18:43 AEST

The Lesotho Red Cross (LRCS), funded by the CS WASH Fund – have been working in two rural districts of Lesotho – Mohale’s Hoek and Mokhotlong. The WASH project has an integrated approach: building latrines and water systems for communities and schools; and awareness building of communities, pupils and teachers to hygiene and sanitation issues. This has included community and targeted sessions to promote inclusion and rights of people with disabilities along with building an improved understanding of their hygiene needs.

One of these sessions was held in 2017 in the village of Siloe, which has a population of around 950 people and at the start of the project had latrine coverage of around 20%. LRCS ran a two-day training session specifically for people with disabilities. The aim was to empower them to voice their needs and concerns in the planning of the current WASH project as well as for future initiatives, and to discuss good hygiene practices. Many of the attendees raised the issues that their input doesn’t normally count at community gatherings and as a result many had stopped attending these types of meetings.  This then reinforces the problem that changes made within the community don’t take into account their specific needs. Another key issue many identified was a lack of self-acceptance which leads to them isolating themselves from their communities.

Attendees were asked to contribute their stories of how they conducted themselves when it comes to hygiene. After discussion on latrine use and care, most indicated a strong willingness to use latrines. Discussion on the proposed latrine structures to be constructed by the LRCS project were held, and participants were asked for their feedback on design, to ensure the structures are user-friendly with respect to their varied disabilities.

Towards the end of the training, one 15 year old female trainee who is permanently in a wheelchair shared that she had started her period during the training and with all the information she had been given she felt confident and comfortable to continue coming to the training without fear of stigma. This was a very positive result as before the training, menstruation in this community was dealt with in silence.

 “We are very happy that we were offered this training because we now know our worth in this community and we have learned different ways and proper practices of good hygiene. We will from this day maintain hygiene to avoid infections,” said Mr Thakhisa, a participant in the training.