The Behavior Change Communications (BCC) component of the Ghana WASH Project focuses on facilitating and encouraging health-promoting behaviors. It uses behavior as the lens to ensure use of and demand for improved services; it also maintains this lens in planning and designing infrastructure and services. The approach calls for interventions at various levels, from an individual’s behavior, to practices at the household, school, community and agency levels.
As part of its BCC strategy, the project works in the formation and support of health and hygiene groups and communities (through WatSan Committees) and in schools (through the School Health Education Program). In total, the project is working to train and orient more than 78,000 individuals in behavior change and hygiene messaging; the project aims to reach more than 10,000 students as well through its efforts .
Water and Sanitation (WatSan) Committees
WatSan Committees are key to the sustainability of the Ghana WASH Project’s interventions at the community level.
In each community, the WatSan Committee is a small group of people elected or selected by the community to represent the community to make decisions for and on behalf of the community. Committee members typically include traditional authorities, respected opinion leaders, elders as well as women and youth. The WatSan Committee is expected to be gender-balanced.
The committee also facilitates the implementation and management of water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities.
Through the project’s LNGO partners, WatSan Committee members are trained on the importance of good hygiene and sanitation, and on developing behavior change messages and good practices. Additionally, for those communities receiving water and latrines, the committee is trained in maintenance of the facility. The WatSan committees functions include:
- Sensitizing communities on basic hygiene practices,
- Mobilizing communities for water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities,
- Leading the community in planning, implementing and monitoring activities,
- Leading the community to raise resources for the operation and maintenance facilities,
- Operating and maintaining water supply points,
- Facilitating the construction of toilets at households and lead hygiene promotion activities,
- Keeping proper records of all activities (including financial records) for the committee/community, and presenting the statement of accounts to the community
- Acting as a liaison between the community and the project,
- Meeting regularly to work on WASH issues.
These committees serve as stewards for the community’s hygiene behavior, and ensure the longevity of the water and sanitation facilities through proper management and community financing and proper community hygiene and health.
To ensure sustainability after the project has ended, GWASH has developed a Facilities Management Plan (FMP) document, which is agreed to and signed by the community and endorsed by the Municipal/District Assemblies. The FMP’s contains basic information about the community and their exiting water and sanitation facilities and key steps on how to maintain the facility. There is also a fund raising plan and how the funds will be managed.
A key component of the FMP’s is the information including the names and contact numbers for Facilities Artisans and Repair shops that could be contacted for routine maintenance and repair when the facility is not working well. The signing of the FMP is an indication that the whole community is committed to ensuring that the facilities are maintained and operated properly.
School Health Education Program (SHEP)
Lack of clean drinking water, toilet facilities and good hygiene practices in schools has a negative impact on the entire school population, and can lead to learning challenges as well as absenteeism. The Ghana WASH Project works with school authorities in its project communities to help promote healthy school environments and support appropriate health and hygiene behavior. Through its work with School Health Education Programs (SHEP) in community schools, the project puts young people at the center of interventions and works with them as change makers and hygiene advocates in their communities.
The project trains teachers on school-led total sanitation, basic hygiene, sanitation and maintenance of sanitation facilities, as well as youth-centered approaches to improving hygiene. These teachers go on to lead the student SHEP clubs, who lead their schools and communities in hygiene improvements through monthly health awareness days, developing hygiene posters, drama presentations and community clean-up campaigns. The SHEP activities also target food vendors in the schools and they are trained on food hygiene, hygienic preparation and handling of food and good and bad food vending practices.
Engaging students through hygiene promotion relies on the fact that young people are receptive to new ideas and can be influenced to adopt positive personal hygiene practices, and, in turn, share these messages with their peers, families and communities.
Improved hygiene behavior in schools has the potential to dramatically and positively impact students, including improving the lifelong positive hygiene of young people, increasing girls’ school attendance, enrolment and retention, improving youths’ capacity to learn, and lowering overall absenteeism due to WASH-related illnesses.