Sarah Fry – What Does WASH in Schools Have to Do with Building Bridges?

by Sarah Fry, SPLASH WASHplus Project, August 2015.

That’s literally, not figuratively, building bridges. Two weeks ago I would not have been able to even understand that question, but today I have a story to share with you. First of all, hello from Zambia. As the WASHplus activity manager for the USAID funded activity called SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene), I have been here since early July working with our team to see this activity to its end on September 30th.

The author on the road in Chadiza District
The author on the road in Chadiza District

SPLASH began in early 2012, and since then has built over 3,000 school toilets, drilled, equipped or rehabilitated over 400 water points for schools, provided permanent handwashing and drinking water stations, and worked with teachers, the national government and local government to ensure that good hygiene practices and stronger systems for operating and maintaining school WASH facilities are put in place, and will stay in place. These activities have taken place in Zambia’s Eastern Province.

Before SPLASH started, Chief of Party Justin Lupele and I went on a “Road Show” out to the districts, where we introduced SPLASH to the government officials and local committees and started to build ownership and participation. The last three years have been a whirlwind of activity – construction, training, community mobilizing, monitoring, publicizing, documenting. Justin and I thought that as the project nears its end, it would be good to go on another grand tour to get a solid sense of what has happened, what has changed, and maybe, what does it all mean. The only requirement we set was to not alert any schools that we were coming to visit.

Zambia is a vast, not densely populated country. Visiting schools requires spending a lot of time in vehicles riding on rough and dusty country roads. These distances impressed upon me how much staff and building contractor time and effort it took to reach the schools to carry out SPLASH activities. Bumping along, I had a chance to think and look forward to what we would find. I certainly expected to see positive changes and improvements at SPLASH schools. However, nothing prepared me for the sea of change that unfolded before us as we made our way to about 20 schools, mostly rural, but a few urban ones as well.

A school in Chipata
A school in Chipata

In 2012, we heard many complaints from schools about how communities were misusing their boreholes and denying any responsibility when they broke down. Now, every school has active WASH committee and pupil WASH Club and all are engaged in some form of joint school-community fundraising for maintenance and repair of the borehole. Handwashing after toilet use and before eating was a nearly universal practice by pupils, a habit acquired even if group handwashing hadn’t been inaugurated yet.

A major achievement was the presence of soap at almost all handwashing stations – stealing soap is a thing of the past, we were told, because pupils want and like to wash their hands. Through the WASH Clubs peer education, they feel that the stations and the soap belong to them. Going beyond peer education, some WASH Clubs are visiting local health centers and performing hygiene skits and poems for women gathered for pre-natal and under-five clinics. In addition, Teachers were delighted with drinking water stations close to the classrooms because time away from lessons was reduced.

Possibly the biggest change was the universal acceptance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) as a necessary and welcome part of the school program. Zambia, like many African countries, has taboos, myths and restrictions around menstruation, which is almost never discussed openly. Facilities and support for menstruating girls in schools is nearly absent, causing girls to stay home and miss weeks of lessons during the school year. Girls at SPLASH schools were thrilled with their beautiful washrooms –shower/toilet structures built to accommodate MHM.

However, no one had anticipated the envy of the boys, who are now demanding their own washrooms to clean up after sports. MHM has entered into the vocabulary and into the culture, to the point where one WASH Committee was holding pad making parties for the girls, but then headed out into the community to distribute them to women in need. The taboos around menstruation seem to have melted away.

While the news from schools is very good– and we will soon be able to quantify what kind of effect SPLASH had on the schools the – we encountered even more good news during this visit, outcomes that I can only call “unexpected consequences” of WASH in schools, and that frankly, I was unprepared for. The big apparent message is that WASH in schools can lift an entire community up and can bring about changes that were previously not possible.

Launching SPLASH with School Led Total Sanitation “triggering” shifted social norms in surrounding communities around open defecation practices to such a degree that we heard of headmen ordering all households to build latrines or pay a fine! Over a thousand household latrines have been built as a result.

In one school receiving a water point, a new classroom block was built where previously there was only a thatched shelter. Teachers’ houses have gone up, and a new water source at another school enabled a clinic to be built nearby.

Classroom before SPLASH in Mambwe District
Classroom before SPLASH in Mambwe District

Every single school stocked soap and toilet paper – a miracle right there – and consequently local shops were seeing a rise in sales of hygiene products. Some schools have a “one child one bottle” policy, leading local businesses to stock up on drinks to satisfy the demand for bottles.

One of the best “unexpected outcome” is the engagement of artisans in building the latrines and washrooms, and who, in the process, have gained marketable skills.

They have found work on road crews (may the work be speeded up!) and other local construction projects and in one case were solicited by a health center next to a school that has decided to build an exact replica of a SPLASH toilet.

New classroom block built after SPLASH provided access to a new water source
New classroom block built after SPLASH provided access to a new water source

Leading the parade of successful new entrepreneurs is the ex-SPLASH artisan who proved so competent that once the latrine construction was done, he was hired to oversee the building of a new bridge. And that’s what WASH in schools and building bridges have in common!

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Break the silence: Talk about Menstruation

Break the silence- talk about menstruation

By Justin Lupele, Chief of Party, USAID ZAMBIA SPLASH PROJECT / WASHplus / FHI 360

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This year on May 28, the world commemorates the second Global Menstrual Hygiene Day under the theme “Let’s end the hesitation around menstruation.” The world is being urged to break the silence and talk freely about menstruation as a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health.

Some cultures in Zambia and elsewhere treat menstruation as something negative, shameful, or dirty. It is shrouded in taboo and secrecy. In addition, girls’ rights to education are being violated through inadequate menstrual hygiene education, insufficient water and sanitation facilities, and poor access to sanitary menstrual materials. Menstrual hygiene facilities and services keep girls in school where they can reach their full potential.

Speaking at the inaugural World Menstrual Hygiene Day at Kabulonga Girls Secondary School in Lusaka last year, USAID/Zambia Mission Director Dr. Susan Brems urged Zambians to break the silence, to start the conversation, and follow up with positive action for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

She observed that taboos on the disposal of used menstrual hygiene products and challenges associated with limited access to disposal facilities make it very difficult for girls and young women to participate freely in academic, economic, and social activities.

Head of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Dr. Jyoti Sanghera of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights observes that “stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, most importantly, of the right to human dignity… and the right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment from abuse and violence.”

USAID/Zambia has over the last four years invested about US $20 million in Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene (SPLASH) to support 616 schools in the Eastern Province through the WASHplus project, implemented by FHI 360, CARE, and Winrock International.

SPLASH and the Ministry of Education Science and Vocational Training and Early Education (MESVTEE), in collaboration with other line ministries, provide girl-friendly sanitation facilities and access to menstrual products.

In the last four years, SPLASH and the MESVTEE have built 263 toilets and ventilated improved pit latrines with shower stalls for girls’ MHM. More than 30,000 girls have benefited from these improvements. These features make it possible for adolescent girls to bathe and change their sanitary pads at school with privacy.

A total of 816 teachers (598 males and 218 females) have been trained as advocates for menstrual hygiene education. The trained teachers share their MHM knowledge with other teachers and members of the community in addition to teaching their pupils. SPLASH has also been working with traditional civic and church leaders to break the silence and taboos associated with MHM. Parents and pupils are talking freely about menstrual hygiene.

At school, both girls and boys are involved in making menstrual pads. Educating boys and men helps dispel myths, stigmas, and negative perceptions about menstruation. Bringing them into conversations about menstruation helps to create a supportive environment for girls and women.

After participating in an MHM exhibition at Kanjala Primary School in Chipata District, one boy had this to say, “As a boy, I have a role to play in MHM. These girls are like our sisters so I’ve learnt that I need to treat them with respect. I was also excited to learn how to make a reusable pad.”

Men and boys are encouraged to participate in pad-making and MHM education to open lines of communication and raise awareness about this once-taboo subject.
Men and boys are encouraged to participate in pad-making and MHM education to open lines of communication and raise awareness about this once-taboo subject.

SPLASH has also forged partnerships with other nongovernmental organizations and private companies to make commercial and local reusable pads. Two of the organizations that have responded to this call are YASH Pharmaceutical Ltd. and Project Luangwa. YASH Pharmaceutical Ltd has produced an eco-friendly washable pad dubbed the pink pad, which is yet to be launched on the Zambian market. According to Mr. Shiva Shankar, YASH Pharmaceuticals Ltd General Manager, the pads can be washed for over 50 times and it is made of eco-friendly textiles, with minimum leakages.

Project Luangwa, in the Mambwe District of Zambia, has established a pad-making project with 60 sewing machines. The project has employed out-of-school girls and women to produce the sanitary pads. Project Luangwa Director Karen Beattie confirms, “Production of the pads is surging ahead and we have four ladies whom we have trained to sew, a cutter and a manager. The pads are definitely helpful to women, and we hope to record their thoughts for an on-line ad.”

Girls from Kamuna Primary School examine reusable pads produced by a public-private partnership between SPLASH and YASH Pharmaceutical. The pads were developed to last for five years, or more than 65 washes.
Girls from Kamuna Primary School examine reusable pads produced by a public-private partnership between SPLASH and YASH Pharmaceutical. The pads were developed to last for five years, or more than 65 washes.

These efforts aim to ease the challenges that adolescent girls face during menstruation. Most of them cannot afford disposal sanitary pads. Some girls miss up to five days a month of learning time due to inadequate sanitation facilities and the lack of sanitary products at school as well as physical discomfort due to menstruation, such as cramps. Others may feel ashamed and embarrassed to go to a school that does not provide menstrual management facilities, and they may simply stop coming to school altogether.

In addition to supporting sanitary pads, SPLASH has produced a number of materials on MHM, including an MHM Toolkit, an MHM brochure, and an MHM success story. SPLASH has also been working with teachers to integrate menstrual hygiene into the curriculum at school, district, and national levels.

Mark your calendars! May 21 #Menstrual Hygiene Twitterchat!

May 21 #MenstrualHygiene Twitter Chat

When: 21st May, 2015, 4 PM CET, 3 PM GMT, 10 AM EST, 7:30 PM IST

Hosted by:

@WASHUnited@WASHAdvocates, @WASHPlusInfo@KachraProject

Hashtag:

#MenstrualHygiene

Themes to be discussed:

  • Men in menstruation!
  • Policy advocacy around the world!
  • Menstrual waste & disposal!

Tweets to promote the chat:

  • If #MenstruationMatters to you, don’t miss the official #MenstrualHygiene Day Twitterchat on May 21 at 3PM GMT / 10AM EST / 7:30PM IST!
  • Join us & help break the silence around periods! Engage in the #MenstrualHygiene Twitterchat on May 21 at 3PM GMT / 10AM EST / 7:30PM IST!
  • If you’re a man, put the ‘MEN’ in menstruation & show your support for May 28 #MenstrualHygiene Day! Break the taboo! http://buff.ly/1Fg8icV 

WASHplus presents at CIES 2015

Lets Talk About It

WASHplus staff participated in four events at the 2015 Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference.  From the WASHplus SPLASH Project in Zambia, Chief of Party Justin Lupele spoke on a panel hosted by the USAID/Zambia education projects on “Why WASH Is an Essential Element of Quality Education.” A poster on the same theme was also displayed. Sarah Fry, WASHplus’ Senior Technical Advisor on WASH in Schools, made a presentation titled “Let’s Talk About It: Safe and Equitable Learning Environments in Zambia,” which focused on SPLASH’s Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) advocacy and activities. Renuka Bery, WASHplus Technical Advisor on WASH & Nutrition Integration, facilitated a workshop on “Clean, Fed & Nurtured,”  along with Carol da Silva from FHI 360, and Monica Woldt from the USAID FANTA Project. Participants formed groups to conduct an activity around Identification of Risks and Opportunities in WASH, Nutrition, and Early Childhood Development in the Home and Surrounding Community. The presentation that accompanied the workshop can be viewed here.

Zambia—Public-Private Pad-Making Partnership

MHM

At the 2014 Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day celebrations in Zambia, YASH Pharmaceuticals partnered with the WASHplus SPLASH (Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene) project, funded by USAID/Zambia, to provide 150 Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) kits for girls at Kabulonga Girl’s Secondary School in Lusaka. The popularity of the reusable pad-making demonstration at the event spurred YASH to undertake its own production of reusable pads. Zambia_ Pad making

In January 2015 YASH and SPLASH signed a memorandum of understanding to codify their public-private partnership. YASH will employ local women to sew reusable pads; 10 percent of all pads produced will be distributed to SPLASH intervention schools where SPLASH provides MHM support and education with the goal of keeping more girls in school. Production is underway and the pads are being piloted in SPLASH intervention schools. Comments received from users so far indicate the pads are of high-quality fabric and very comfortable. SPLASH is seeking additional partners to purchase and distribute pads to other schools so the MHM needs of girls are taken care of and they can focus on learning.

WASH-Friendly Schools Guide

SPLASH Zambia

WASHplus’ SPLASH project in Zambia recently published a WASH-Friendly training guide geared toward educators, government officials, and communities that are interested in incorporating improved sanitation access, clean drinking water, and hand washing stations and materials to its students and teachers along with a complementary WASH curriculum and MHM. Though geared to the Zambian school context, much of the material is applicable to any low-resource school setting. Read the guide here.

Communities of Practice are a SPLASH Best Practice!

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by Sarah Fry

About the Author: Sarah Fry is a Senior Hygiene and School WASH Advisor with the USAID funded WASHplus Project. She manages the USAID-funded SPLASH program in Zambia and an urban hygiene improvement program in Benin.

Creating communities of practice (COP) within SPLASH (the Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Hygiene and Sanitation project implemented through WASHplus) has moved from talk to action, as the “Task 2 – Software” Community of Practice held its first meeting in Chadiza District from 26 to 28 August.  I arrived in Zambia on Saturday and was cheerfully informed that we would travel to Chadiza on Monday to attend this meeting.  If you look on the map of Zambia, Chadiza is in Eastern Province below Chipata, hugging Mozambique.  It took a good 12 hours to arrive there, but what a treat to get to know SPLASH’s latest district.  Formerly a true outpost even for Zambia, there are signs that Chadiza is growing and developing.  New road grading and construction envelopes the town in dust during this dry season, and it was hot. The hotel we stayed at was paint-not-dry new but had almost all the basics.

The SPLASH Chadiza team l to r: •Chimunya Hambote, SPLASH district coordinator and engineer •Boas Banda, DEBS Chipata •Oscar Zulu, Asst DRCC, Chadiza •Boyd Hakubeja, SPLASH HBCT, Chadiza
The SPLASH Chadiza team l to r: Chimunya Hambote, SPLASH district coordinator and engineer; Boas Banda, DEBS Chipata; Oscar Zulu, Asst DRCC, Chadiza • Boyd Hakubeja, SPLASH HBCT, Chadiza

The community of practice that gathered from all districts included three SPLASH Hygiene Behavior Change Technicians (HBCTs) with a Ministry of Education (MOE) staff member sitting in for Mayombo from Lundazi District, who was out on maternity leave.  The HBCTs were joined by the District Resource Center Coordinators (DRCCs), also from MOE and in charge of rolling out teacher in-service training in the districts. DRCCs have become indispensable members of the SPLASH team as SPLASH has shifted nearly all school WASH training, behavior change and mobilization activities through the existing teacher in service system called SPRINT (School Program for In-service for a Term)of the MOE.  This ensures an institutional home for integration of WASH themes in teaching and learning.

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Chief of Party Justin Lupele walking the group through “What is a Community of Practice”

To start us off, SPLASH Chief of Party Justin Lupele reviewed what exactly a CoP is (coincidental acronyms!).  Then the group launched into presentations by district on what has been accomplished in the software programs associated with SPLASH.  Highlights (and there were many!) were the extent to which schools have been supported in becoming WASH friendly through the School-Led Total Sanitation process, how thoroughly WASH teaching and training is being rolled out through the SPRINT system, and how far the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) program has advanced in the districts.  For example, MHM has been included in district and provincial MOE strategic plans, and many schools are stocking emergency sanitary pads.

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Mrs. Margaret “Mai” Mapata, DRCC/Chipata and queen of MHM and fun learning and teaching activities

But what really inspired everybody was the Chipata team’s account of the first ever MHM Mini Exhibition organized by “Mai” Mapata as Ms. Margaret Mapata is fondly called, James Nyirenda and Emory University intern Kylie Saunders.  The exhibition was held for parents, students and teachers from a number of schools around Chipata town, and offered booths with informational displays on the basics of menstruation and on good nutrition during menstruation, MHM themed games and teaching and learning aids with MHM themes.  One of the most popular stations was on reusable pad making, and among the most enthusiastic pad makers were…boys!  They were thrilled to be fully included and several said that they were eager to show their sisters how to make pads.

After hearing about the success of this event, the others in the COP decided to hold their own.  And this is how the three days went – as districts explained how they approached challenges or tried a new way of doing something, the others took note.  There was much hallway chatting in the evening as members of the COP questioned each other about how they managed different aspects of the program.

The next days were devoted to highlighting and analyzing successes and challenges encountered in rolling out the hygiene behavior change program, leading to decisions about actions and activities in the upcoming final SPLASH year.  A recurring theme to the challenges was how to move from information to action, knowledge to practice.  Another was how to build on what has been created, such as pupil WASH clubs and PTA WASH committees, and supporting these entities to becomes truly functional and autonomous.  These two themes generated much honest soul-searching and discussion, and a commitment to try out promising strategies with these ends in mind.

The COP workshop was held at the Chadiza Resource Center, a comfortable room with interesting teaching aids and posters all over, located on the grounds of Chadiza Primary and Secondary schools where SPLASH is intervening.  As luck would have it, SPLASH was also holding training for Area Pump Menders on the school grounds, where the school pump was conveniently on its last creaky legs.  We watched and applauded as the group of new pump menders gathered round and brought the ailing school pump back to life.

At the end of the three days together, there was no doubt that a true Community of Practice had taken root.  Now we will sit back and watch as branches and blossoms sprout, and as the connection continue via social media and other channels.  WhatsApp, Facebook anyone?

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Chadiza Area Pump Menders training, Chadiza Primary School
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Female APM during training, Chadiza
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The SPLASH “Software” Community of Practice, l to r: • Davison Phiri, DRCC Mambwe • Boyd Hakubeja, HBCT/Chadiza • Febby Busika, SPLASH Regional Director • Justin Lupele, SPLASH Chief of Party • Doris Kanyerere, SPLASH Provincial Finance Officer and WASH in school champion • James Nyirenda, HBCT/Chipata and Mr. MHM • Abigail Changaya, DRCC/Lundazi • Musenga, SPLASH administrative assistant and driver • Romakala Banda, HBCT/Mambwe • Margaret “Mai” Mapata, RDCC/Chipata • Oscar Zulu, Assistant DRCC/Chadiza