28th June 2018 by Ben Greeves
Working in partnership is a core value that we, here at InterComm, fully support and uphold. How can you provide a deliverable that will make a genuine difference if you don’t take the time to listen and understand the true need? By working with those involved, rather than for, we believe great things can be achieved.
Throughout their placement in Msunjilile, Tanzania, Kate Flanagan and the other Raleigh volunteers never lost sight of the importance and value of working in partnership with the local community.
In this blog, Kate explains how the volunteers took time to listen to and work with the people of Msunjilile. This approach was used to help mobilise the community and effectively share knowledge, with the aim to encourage behavioural change and ultimately provide the feeling of empowerment.
We believe there are lessons here for us all!
If you have any comments on these blogs, please contact us. We would love to hear your thoughts.
In my opinion, any development project that does not value partnership with the community it works within is wrong in its approach. As part of our water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project in Msunjilile, we worked with the local community to mobilise them and provide knowledge that would encourage behavioural change and ultimately empower them.
The education of children is vital. Yet even if they have reached high levels of enthusiasm and understanding, they will still be limited in their fight for change if older siblings, parents and grandparents do not hold those same values. This is where both the potential, and challenges, to such a project lies.
We tried to engage and mobilise the village members as much as possible throughout the three-month project. Within our first week in Msunjilile we visited forty village households and, after introducing ourselves with the help of village elders, we asked questions such as ‘Do you and your family use soap? If so, when?’, ‘Can you demonstrate the six stages of handwashing?’ and ‘Do you know the causes of diarrhoea?’. After collecting and collating the results of this initial household survey we saw existing gaps in WASH-related knowledge and then knew where our WASH mobilisation efforts should focus.
With the survey results in mind we were able to plan and deliver successful community mobilisation meetings. We met with youth, women and elder groups and discussed the school WASH lessons that we had taught to the children of Msunjilile. The concept of mobilisation was by subliminal education. We could not deliver the information to the adults in the same way we had done to the children – teaching a seventy-year-old village elder the six stages of handwashing by the ‘Do Like I Do’ song would have had a very different and uncomfortable result. However, by discussing with each group what we had taught the children at the school, we were then able to provide them with the same knowledge.
On a larger scale, we organised and delivered two separate ‘Action Days’ as part of our project. They provided us with an opportunity to address hundreds of community members, where we delivered speeches in Swahili on our school WASH lessons, spreading the important knowledge. The school water, sanitation and hygiene (SWASH) club performed and there was music, singing, drumming and dancing. Games, such as a Raleigh volunteer vs Msunjilile tug of war and a football match, provided opportunities to bond more closely with many community members.
Our final household survey in Msunjilile revealed that there had been noteworthy improvements in WASH knowledge across the sample taken, particularly around the six stages of handwashing and associated diseases. We hope the children of Msunjilile, as the most enthusiastic WASH learners, will influence the behavioural patterns of other generations to compound our mobilisation efforts and to ultimately improve the health and development of their community.
The home, with its family behavioural practices ingrained over generations, is a site which provides the greatest barrier to mobilisation. Yet, as a space at the very heart of community, it is an essential focus of mobilisation efforts.
Kate Flanagan – 2018