Published on: 25/02/2016
Having local researchers work with local stakeholders on the development of monitoring tools has been an important success of the Action Research for Learning programme.
This three-year initiative (2013–2015) was set up to improve the effectiveness of existing hygiene promotion and community empowerment programmes of selected local Dutch WASH Alliance partners in four countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda.
Local NGOs in the four countries have been supported to develop a monitoring framework with indicators for their specific activity. Tools such as household questionnaires and key informant interview guides have been jointly developed to do data collection on the indicators. After the actual data collection, analyses have been done, sense has been made of the data and lessons have been drawn up out of the outcomes.
The monitoring activities have helped local NGOs to improve the programmes they are working in:
In Ethiopia Amref Health Africa constructs public toilets and showers in places where many people gather as one way to increase access to sanitation, water and hygiene. It trained local youth to manage and operate the showers and toilets. Because of Action Research for Learning, local partners started to meet with the washhouse youth management committee and health extension workers to reflect on progress and consider questions: 'Is monthly revenue sufficient to cover the monthly operation costs? Are the showers being kept clean? Are people in rural areas washing their hands after defecation and before handling food?' It became clear in this process that extra training in managing the toilet and shower blocks was needed. Amref Health Africa then worked with the youth management committees to increase their financial skills and guide them in collecting user fees, bookkeeping and developing a business plan. And when Action Research for Learning revealed that soap for hand washing was often missing at latrines attached to rural health facilities, Amref Health Africa discussed this with the health office, which now ensures that soap is always available.
In Ghana during the action research, New Energy and partners observed that in the local culture, children below the age of six would not use the same latrines as adults as a sign of respect for the elderly. More child-friendly latrines have been developed, and they are being used and well maintained. In addition, soakways have been constructed for households. Hand washing with soap improved after community members were sensitised during refresher hygiene sessions. Water storage and treatment have also improved: the results show that nearly 80% of the beneficiaries now clean their water containers every three days. Women's participation in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)-related decision making has increased, and some women have constructed their own latrines.
In Uganda training of women's groups in re-usable menstrual pads (RUMPS) was a key element. Trainings in schools and trading centres by HEWASA and other development partners have equipped women with the skills to make RUMPs. The international Menstrual Hygiene Management conference held in Kampala in August 2014 also contributed to raising the profile of this issue in the sector. The Ministry of Education and Sports sent a communiqué to head teachers to start planning for menstrual hygiene management in schools. The effectiveness of social marketing for latrine use and hand washing increased throughout the project period. This entailed revising sanitation marketing in community-led total sanitation (CLTS) activities and disseminating information on affordable latrine options. The score of effectiveness for one indicator, adoption of appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices at household and institutional levels, also improved by the end of the programme. The increase was attributed to outreach: local radio stations aired skits with behavioural change messages at least four times a day.
In Bangladesh, new sanitary latrines have been built. Families with old latrines have made them functional again by placing them on an elevation and providing and maintaining pans or slabs. In addition, schools and most households in the programme area now have functioning hand-washing points, with soap, within 15 yards of their latrines.
Given the generally positive results, the Action Research for Learning programme deserves to be continued because it has proven effective in both promoting learning and action research and implementing innovations that are much appreciated by the communities. For example, the sanitation credit for the public toilet schemes in Ghana and the shower and latrine schemes in Ethiopia help micro-credit businesses thrive and provide jobs while improving WASH services. These types of schemes indicate demand for further linking with the private sector in creating financially viable and thus sustainable interventions. Optimally, a second phase of this programme would scale up interventions that demonstrate longevity and create WASH services that last.
In the final report (see below) you can read more about the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Action Research for Learning programme.