We did this! - Sainpasela change agents celebrate achieving Clean and Sanitised Ward status

Australian Red Cross (ARC) | Jenni Lillingston from Australian Red Cross (ARC), on 18/07/2018 21:19 AEST

Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) has been working with communities in Bajhang in Nepal’s remote far west through the CS-WASH funded Sanitation, Hygiene & Water Management (SHWM) project. The project supports progress towards the Government of Nepal’s Total Sanitation objectives. To achieve this, NRCS has been supporting key change agents, including Ward WASH Committees, Water User Groups, Mothers Groups and School Management Committees, to build their capacity to promote sanitation, waste management, and personal, household and community hygiene.

Sainpasela is the highest and most remote of the target communities. Until recently, it took seven hours by foot to reach the main road from the Ward office; after the construction of a road, it now takes two hours by jeep. The dispersed population of 1216 households is largely ultra-poor. Even where basic concepts of hygiene were understood, water could take many hours to bring to the house and only unimproved sanitation was available.

A celebration was held on 22 June 2018 to mark the achievement of Sainpasela as a Clean and Sanitised Ward - a government accreditation - and to mark the completion of the CS-WASH project.

A representative of the Mothers Group opened the celebrations, noting the information shared through the NRCS and the Community Motivators “showed us the way”.    

Severe outbreaks of water-borne diseases have reduced significantly since the start of the project. The importance of hygiene behaviours and the impact on health and comfort are recognised by men and women throughout the community. This has led to sustained changes, including maintaining open defecation free status, improved personal hygiene, handwashing practice and menstrual management (including the reduction of Chaupadi[1] practices).  

Community members noted that, while there is sadness that the SHWM project is closing, there is commitment to continuing to motivate and monitor household behaviours. The tradition of housing animals in the lower levels of houses had been a major barrier to reaching total sanitation, however, in Sainpasela this has largely been tackled, with households now collecting and containing waste away from the house.

The main challenge remaining is plastic waste management, especially near local markets. The WASH committees and Mothers Groups will continue to engage households to improve their understanding of the associated environmental issues and motivate a change in attitudes. 

The newly formed Ward office committed to taking the lead in working with the new rural municipality to continue to strengthen community groups and ensure that Sainpasela retains its status.

 The celebration closed with the Mothers Group performing a local dance and song:

You taught us healthy habits to live our life and changed our behaviour; we are so thankful for that. It has been four years and we have been in this movement hand in hand, and you have made a role model and leader in sanitation and hygiene promotion. We hope you will always keep us in your memories through the change this area has gained in behavioural change.

 

[1] A practice whereby women are isolated from their homes and families while menstruating. This was banned in Nepal in 2005 but is still observed in some rural areas.