Madagascar: Scouts prove to be influential hygiene promoters

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WaterAid is running the Executive Secretariat of the Diorano-WASH Coalition in Madagascar, which functions also as a WSSCC National WASH Coalition. The Diorano-WASH Coalition is a multi-stakeholder coalition of members from government, nongovernmental organizations, religious organizations, and private sector. The Diorano-WASH Coalition developed a new partnership with the Scouting Federation that aims to develop an innovative hygiene promotion initiative led by the young people themselves reaching out to the many members (50,000) in all regions of the country.

The activities focused on learning and capacity building of the Scouts on the three key Diorano WASH massages: “Wash your hands with soap,” “use hygienic latrines,” and “transport and store water safely.” Other activities included a song contest involving 480 participants, a mass media campaign, and a street rally creating a carnival atmosphere led by Girl and Boys Scouts in November 2009, where Scouts demonstrated good hygiene and sanitation practices to the public. The Scouts also engaged actively in the production of a short documentary film, which was broadcast on television stations in the country.

In 2009, the collaborative efforts took place in two locations: the urban commune of Nosy Be, and the rural commune of Mahitsy, where we met Scout leader Haingo, her baby Misanda, and local Scout Sahaza.

Haingo, 19, is married to Tsilavina, and they are both Scout leaders in Mahitsy. Their baby girl Misanda is one year old.

“Since the Diorano WASH project began, I have tried to practice what we preach to the Scouts under my supervision. Before, I was just happy to wash my hands with water, but now I use soap more often. In the beginning, it was not very easy to make the link between Misanda’s health and proper hand washing and hygiene practices, but now we know and take this practice very seriously. To make it easier for me, Tsilavina made a Tippy Tap in our courtyard. I think the three key Diorano WASH messages are both easy to practice and easy to pass on to other. I have a small shop selling groceries. As it is mango season, I sell fruit juice that I prepare myself. I never miss the opportunity to reassure my customers of the cleanliness of the water I use and offer them suggestions about how to keep their water clean at home. With regard to promoting a general awareness of hygienic latrines, I find it is a long-term work, but the Scouts can contribute in their own way. At our last Scout camp, the building of latrines was the particular focus of the organizers.”

Sahaza, 15, is an enthusiastic Girl Scout. The events in Mahitsy gave her an opportunity to facilitate a debate on hygiene practices; six months later, she is still excited about the topic. “We were two young scouts who facilitated a debate on WASH issues. Thanks to the briefing sessions and personal preparation, I can say that I am very proud of our work. Before I always thought it would be difficult to get adults and young people together, and to discuss hygiene and sanitation challenges. The debate was very lively and we keep talking about our experiences locally. I wish I had more opportunities to develop these facilitation skills. I think this is my contribution to behaviour change in my community”

We plan to develop and extend this exciting outreach initiative to affect thousands of other Scouts members and communities across Madagascar.

This article was written by WSSCC member Rindra Rakotojoelimaria, Diorano WASH Assistant Officer, Water Aid Madagascar, and a Scout leader herself. For more information, contact Rindra via e-mail at RindraRakotojoelimaria@wateraid.org.