What is WASH?
It’s easy to forget that as important as installing water facilities is, it’s not the end of the story. Equally important is making sure that a community has a good understanding of WASH. WASH stands for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and means not only providing access to water facilities, but also making communities aware of the links between hygiene, sanitation, and disease. This is just as effective in preventing disease as access to clean water.
At Just a Drop we work to ensure that our local partners carry out WASH training within the communities they work in. On a recent site visit to India, our project engineers – Jim Baldwin and Geoff Pook – learned that our partner NGOs have varying understandings of WASH, so they set about designing a training programme.
The course was run by Jim, who has spent over 40 years working on international water projects, including work for the Department for International Development, the German Society for Technical Cooperation, the World Bank, UNICEF and WaterAid.
WASH training in India
This Autumn, participants from these NGOs – including Haritika and the El Shaddai Ministries trust – attended a week-long training course, which aimed to develop a standardised WASH approach for local partners, leading to better practices in the communities they work with. And it doesn’t stop there: as well as a new approach to WASH, it’s hoped that the trainees will learn how to implement participatory approaches to community involvement. This means that decision-making should involve community participation, including those who are usually left out of key decisions, such as women, the disabled, or children.
- Discussed root problems in rural WASH, what community participation entails, and how attitudes and behavior in villages can be encouraged to change for the better
- Used these principles to conduct field analysis in a village to identify WASH-related problems and potential solutions
- Presented these findings to the village, with an opportunity for villagers to comment on their work
Collectively, the four NGOs involved have tens of thousands of people who benefit from their work, so this course has the potential to make a huge difference to many lives.
The training will assist the NGOs to improve their work in the field through:
- Ensuring there is fully representative community participation in all decision-making processes
- Enabling community ownership of a project to ensure facilities are well maintained and repaired when broken.
- Ensuring the long-term sustainability of a project through training and community mobilisation
Why did you choose to use this particular training course?
The course was designed by me for the World Bank Project (Jalswarajya) in Maharashtra State of India and used to improve the knowledge of 17 District Teams. It was also used to train district administrators, NGOs and engineers in four other states for the Water and Sanitation Program South Asia.
Why are community involvement and participatory approaches so important?
Most design work done for water supply historically has been remote from people, as engineers could not accept that people had a role to play and that their wishes were important. This has now changed and dramatically improved long-term sustainability through better ownership by communities.
Why do you think there is so much variation between local partners in India in terms of how informed they are about WASH?
The problem is lack of exposure to the latest techniques of community participation and behaviour-change communication. Some have a little knowledge and try themselves, but in fact need to understand the holistic approach and how to work as a team.
Do you feel that in international development WASH training is often neglected in favour of building new facilities?
In India, new projects are taken up as a priority. Training has largely been ignored by all levels in development. There are changes in attitude but there is a need for constant reinforcing. This is what Just a Drop can do.
Ideally, what do you hope this course will achieve?
There will be a great change in understanding experienced by all the trainees. They will not only learn from the training itself but from each other. I find that all trainees can contribute something new. We hope that by facilitating the process all will gain. I hope that by doing this for core members of each NGO the messages from the training will spread not only to other NGO staff, but into villages where they work. Working with a community can be a very humbling experience. There is a tremendous bank of knowledge in every village. Through our WASH programme, we will show how to unlock it.
If you are interested in the work that Just a Drop has undertaken in India, please click here.
Written by: Margaret Welsh. August 2013