The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaboration Council (WSSCC) launched a competition for its members this year in an effort to showcase the work of its diverse membership base, which comprises individuals and organizations working to highlight issues of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at the local, national and global levels. The winners of the WSSCC members’ innovation award will be sponsored to attend the regional conference on reducing gender inequalities in the WASH sector, an event organized by the WSSCC, in conjunction with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women) in Dakar, Senegal. The WSSCC members’ innovation award challenged members to submit a one-page description of an initiative they had developed, and to explain why it was innovative and relevant to the topic of the regional conference. Overall, over 30 proposals were submitted, with three winners selected.
The remaining submissions, while not winning entries, provided a rich and wide range of solutions to issues of inequality, from “soft” solutions, such as community advocacy, to “hard” solutions that were designed specifically to tackle these inequalities among the most vulnerable. In the advocacy-focused solutions, championed by members such as Bienvenu Mihigo, Chabbi Goudel and Nathalie Kenmonge, their strategy was to mobilize Governments and stakeholders in the WASH sector to change policies to include WASH issues related to women, such as Menstrual Hygiene Management. Some of the outcomes of these advocacy efforts included budgeting for gender equality in WASH into the national budget, improving Menstrual Hygiene Management in women’s prisons and spreading awareness about good Menstrual Hygiene Management practices in local governments and communities.
Some members chose to focus on innovations that drew from existing WASH practices and infrastructures. For example, Charif N’Dine, Evariste Tchigossou, William Masore and Djagbe Theophile proposed the creation of universal latrines that catered for the disabled individuals and women in their respective communities. Dianna Marini proposed that existing toilet operators needed to adequately serve women’s needs by encouraging them to actively participate in their design. Manjit Gill and Eva Buhia are working on developing sustainable solutions that would enable women and girls to manage their menstruation properly by designing sustainable period underwear and bio-free incinerators in schools respectively. Some members focused on improving the quality of water supply in communities, like Bridgette Gado, who proposed that, in order to help Fulani women in the Kalale community of Benin with their responsibility of providing water for their community, more wells should be dug closer to the village. Similarly, Yussif Abdul-Rahman proposed an entrepreneurial solution for women in the northern region of Ghana using a gender equality pay initiative, where women make money by selling water filters, and in doing so, not only increase their decision-making power in their respective households, but also provide their families with access to clean water. Another member, Habimana Jonas, is working on WASH programmes and projects to fight cholera and other water-borne diseases in communities.
There were also many community-based solutions, which promoted the idea that change in WASH-related issues had to originate from community members themselves. Examples of this can be found in proposals submitted by Dorcas Ngoyem and Kora Baro, which advocated for change in cultural and community norms through Community-Led Total Sanitation practices, an approach that resulted in an Open Defecation Free status in a community and adopted practices that cater to women’s sanitation needs. Amanda Jane, Felicity Jia, Joe Asila, Megha Phansalkar and Tito Mwambala all sought to empower women to be decision-makers in their respective communities by allowing them to design women-friendly facilities, empowering men and boys to consider solutions that help women better, bringing women together with community members and sanitation providers to identify barriers they face in WASH and forming a women’s micro-finance group where women meet weekly to address sanitation-related issues. Additionally, Reuben Ibaishwa and Ganesh Garida used community training sessions and generational approaches to improve community sanitation.
Conversely, two submissions proposed the need for WASH reform, specifically relating to WASH governance. Abby Mhene and Daniel Iroegbu both proposed that the involvement of women in civil society organizations and the eradication of poor WASH policies will strengthen and reform WASH governance.
In addition to such approaches, education and research were also dominant approaches mentioned in the innovative proposals. Some took the form of workshops in schools and communities, as proposed by Reuben Ibaishwa, Mayuri Pednekar and Sulochana Pednekar, to promote gender equality and educate girls about Menstrual Hygiene Management, in some cases for girls situated in disaster areas. For others such as Regis Mtutu and Apolot Mary, research on WASH plays a pivotal part in informing their organization’s programmes that effect change in communities at the local level. For Jimmy Mujini and Zahid Hossain, their innovations focused on viewing WASH issues – especially with women and children – through a gender lens tool and the use of storytelling for WASH in schools respectively.
WSSCC would like to thank all members who participated in the competition by submitting proposals. If someone did not submit a proposal but still wants to share your work with other WSSCC members, he/she can do so by posting on the discussion platform on the Members’ Community Page, or by connecting with other members through the Message function on the Members’ Directory page.
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