WaSH Spotlight: Community Engagement

Key vocabulary & definitions:

WaSH Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

Sanitation Users Association (SUA) – a committee consisting of one representative from each household that deals with problems that arise on the network.

Simplified sewerage network – The network of pipes connecting member’s latrines to the sewage ponds.

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The team:

The community engagement team consist of four volunteers: two from KITE DSM and the other two from CDI. At university, the team specialises in a diverse range of subjects, studying: Environmental Engineering, Community Development, Biological Anthropology and Politics and International Relations. The mix of different subjects makes for a well-rounded team with exciting new ideas.

 

What is community engagement?

Community engagement is the framework that allows members of the community to become involved and empowered in their development. This is achieved through consultation of community members when making key decisions and taking their feedback on our project seriously. For example, this summer began with consultations with the chairpeople of each network and focus groups and surveys of network members. Through this, we identified a number of ways to improve the SUA model to make it align more closely with how the community functions.

Community engagement works closely with the other WaSH sub-teams, for example:

  • Working with the network team in ensuring that any infrastructure built is appropriate and specific to the community.
  • Organising workshops to run in the community which help promote the accompanying behavioural change.
  • The team also has close links with Monitoring and Evaluation; evaluating the effectiveness of past aspects of the project and applying what we’ve learnt to new initiatives.  

 

The plan for this year:

The WaSH project provides new users with a deferred payment scheme; this allows people joining the system to pay back the latrine construction costs over a period of up to four years. This prevents the up-front cost of a new latrine being a barrier to anyone who wishes to connect to the network. Community engagement oversees the contracts for the deferred payment scheme. It is important that new users joining the network this summer to ensure the contracts and their financial implications are fully understood. To achieve this, the language and structure of the contracts are being adapted to make them more accessible. The team will then have sessions in each household explaining the contracts to the new users. Parallel to this the team will be organising training sessions on SUA functions to allow the new users to easily integrate into the existing SUAs.  

An important part of the WaSH project is the existing education initiatives such as the WaSH entrepreneurship workshops. Currently new network members are invited to 18 workshops run over the space of nine months by a local NGO: Bridge for Change (BfC). The content of the workshops was decided in consultation with community members and cover topics like latrine management, sanitation and hygiene and life skills. This summer, the community engagement team will be working with BfC to continue improving the workshops, focusing on increasing attendance and ensuring the content remains engaging, accessible and relevant. The team will also be involved in BfC’s plans to expand their workshops beyond Vingunguti.  

 

In the future:

Sustainability is a core principle of CDI and good community engagement is key to achieving that. To ensure the long-term sustainability of the WaSH project, the community needs to take ownership of their simplified sewerage network, with the goal of the networks running autonomously in the future. At the end of summer, the team will be running a ‘celebration day’ inviting new members of the networks, DAWASA, other NGOs and press. The purpose of this event is to promote the project and instil a sense of pride and ownership of the network in community residents. The improved community engagement framework and SUA structure developed this summer will be necessary for achieving the goal of year-round building of new simplified sewerage networks.

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