As noted above, community mobilisation means involving all members of a community if possible but there are some groups that can have particularly significant roles.
Role of schools
You learned in Study Session 6 about the importance of engaging school children in WASH initiatives. In school, children gain knowledge that can influence and stimulate their attitude and practice, help them to develop their life skills and play an important role in influencing their families and the wider community. However, the existing water supply and sanitation conditions of many of the schools in urban and peri-urban parts of low-income countries are inadequate and unsafe. Most of the school latrines are filthy, and their poor condition is contributing to a high level of disease, creating a poor learning environment. The lack of adequate facilities is a particular problem for girls’ education, as you read in Case Study 10.2 on menstrual hygiene. It is important for the community to be involved in planning WASH facilities, especially in schools (Figure 11.4).
School children who are loved and trusted by their families and communities may be effective agents of change in their localities, particularly in the use and management of water supply and sanitation facilities, if they are guided appropriately in school. School teachers and school WASH clubs can therefore play a crucial role in promoting better hygiene practices among school children and better management of WASH facilities. This has a great impact not only in influencing the delivery of quality education, but also as a strategy for spreading the WASH technologies and the changes required by the community, and hence contributing towards a positive social change in their localities.
As a WASH practitioner you are expected to understand the advantages of working closely with school WASH clubs and bringing about a change in hygiene behaviour focused on school children, who are the future of the country.
Effective sanitation and hygiene education in a school should include:
- A healthy physical environment
- Active and organised children
- Trained and committed school personnel
- Links to home and community
Role of other key groups
Religious leaders, youth and women’s groups can play an important role in mobilising local communities and promoting urban WASH initiatives. These groups may use community mobilisation channels such as public meetings, social gatherings, festivals, cultural shows, exhibitions, visits, posters, pamphlets and notice boards. As a result they can make a huge contribution towards the improvement of community awareness and participation. They can therefore help to improve awareness of the WASH sector and of local sanitation and environmental health issues and appropriate WASH technologies.
The training and capacity building of target groups and community workers can enhance the community engagement opportunities, which will have an impact on service delivery and development of local partnerships. Therefore, as strategic social targets, women’s and youth groups should be encouraged to get mobilised and organised, to play their role in supporting and facilitating the implementation of urban WASH facilities. As you learned in Study Session 6, raising awareness of social groups and community workers is essential for engaging all of the community and initiating change in society.