TELLING OUR STORY

 

The four-seater washroom facilty for the Asuohyiam District Assembly Basic School

In some communities in 21st century Ghana, pupils miss classes to attend to natures call and never return, for lack of toilet facilities in their schools. Some children and adults are still oblivious of the need for hand washing after visiting the toilet and before eating. And you are likely to go back home to ease yourself when you visit a loved one at a health facility, for lack of toilet facilities. To curb these disturbing realities, communities and developmental organizations need to collaborate and find sustainable solutions.

So as part of the USAID funded WASH for Health Project by Global Communities, rural communities are benefiting from various WASH interventions through the Small Grant Program. One of the five beneficiary communities in the Western region that exhibited exceptional commitment to the development of the community is Asuohyiam. This community, spearheaded by the headmaster of the Asuoahyiam District Assembly (D/A) basic school, Mr. Emmanuel Arthur, has constructed washrooms for the school. They went the extra mile to build a four-seater Ventilated-Improved Pit (VIP) latrine (washroom) instead of the proposed three, a urinal and purchased a water storage tank for handwashing to serve the over 600 pupils and staff.

The grant was awarded to the school to build a three-seater improved latrine. The grant of US$2,000 (GH¢8,836.40) catered for 75% of the cost of constructing the three-seater latrine for the school. The community member pledged their support and contributed GH¢3,651, approximately $826, which is the equivalent of 25% of the cost, to complete the project. Considering the population of the school, the community decided to include an additional seater and urinal (for both males and females) to the proposed latrine and purchased a water storage tank for hand-washing.

The Headmaster of the school, Mr. Emmanuel Arthur was excited about the grant and its foreseen impact of reducing absenteeism. “This support from USAID through Global Communities to build a latrine in the school is such a relief to me. Now pupils do not run away from school to attend nature’s call and not return” he said.

In preparation for the commencement of this project, a communal labor was organized to clear the site of weeds and trees for the construction of the facility. The trees felled were used for the roofing of the latrine. The show of solidarity and commitment towards the construction of an improved latrine for the Asuohyiam DA basic school by the community is remarkable.

The facility which took 13 months to construction commenced in April, 2018, with consistent monitoring by Global Communities, is fully functional and in use by the pupils and staff of Asuohyiam DA basic school.

Located in the Amenfi West District of the Western region with a population of about 1500, Asuohyiam is predominantly a cocoa farming community settled by people from various parts of Ghana and neighboring countries including Ivory Coast. The people are noted for their hospitality. The name Asuohyiam was coined from ‘Asuo hyia me’ meaning (I’m being met by river Asuo). That was a phrase constantly uttered by one of the early settlers who recounted his experience of crossing the Asuo River several times while he journeyed through the vast forest until arriving at a suitable settlement. This goes to prove their verve for going all lengths to get or be the best.

The Small Grants Program, which ended in September 2018, is a sub-component of the WASH for Health Project that supports local organizations to facilitate sustainable, innovative, community-driven projects that improve sanitation, water and hygiene for individuals, households and communities. The Program supports 75% of the proposed projects and awards a maximum of $2,000 (GH¢8,836.40) to successful applicants (organizations/groups), whilst the people contribute an additional 25%, to complete their proposed project within six months.

The Program, like WASH for Health, targeted communities in nine regions in Ghana; Greater Accra, Volta, Oti, Western, Western-North Central and Northern, Savannah and North East Regions. Nine communities, organizations and institutions of five (Western, Western-North, Central, Volta and Oti regions) were awarded grants.

Since 2018, Global Communities, in partnership with Be Girl, a United States of America-based producer of re-usable Be Girl Sanitary panties with towels and menstrual cycle tracker, has reached out to adolescent girls in deprived project regions to educate all adolescents on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and distributed some Be Girl products. The results have been incredible. 1,142 adolescent girls have benefitted from Be Girl panties and MHM education. 1,071 boys and 1,036 parents and guardians have benefitted from MHM education in 4 project regions (Volta, Savannah, Western, Greater Accra), translating into significant impact in the lives of beneficiaries and communities. 

Today, in commemorating the Menstruation Hygiene Day, Global Communities Ghana is celebrating two heroines and a hero who have translated these interventions into positive behavioural and attitudinal changes.

 

Lucy Binsil

Lucy Binsil, a seventeen year old pupil of Abunyanya District Assembly Junior High School, in the Volta Region, saw her dreams of becoming a nurse fade away anytime she missed class. Her regular absence was usually during her menstrual period. On days she was present in class, she constantly stained her school uniform like most girls in the school, resulting in ridicules from her male classmates.

Her narrative changed after benefitting from the Be Girl Panties and menstrual cycle tracker, as well as education on Menstrual Hygiene Management. According to her, “The intervention has really changed my life. I no longer skip school during my period. I am now motivated to study hard to become a nurse in future, as has been my dream.”

 

Nadia Baba standing

The story of Nadia Baba, a form 3 pupil of St Paul Roman Catholic Junior High school, Tuna, in the Savannah Region, is no different,  "I used to feel uncomfortable mingling with my male classmates because I used cloth during my period. But now my confidence has shot up because I use Be Girl pantie and I know I am secured’’

Daniel Binya

Daniel Kwadwo Yajabrum Binya, Lucy’s classmate, recounted his perception, and that of his male cohorts, of their female classmates during their menses. “We did not allow them to get close to us because we saw them as dirty. Most of them stained their school uniforms during their menses.” After being enlightened, that perception has changed over time. “We are more accommodating now because we understand the natural phenomenon of menstruation and now they look more presentable.”

“It’s time for action” is this year’s theme for the Menstrual Hygiene Day. These testimonies are indicative of the actions already in motion. At this pace, it is envisaged that more adolescent girls, especially, will be empowered to strive for greatness, overcoming all barriers pertaining to menstruation.

Be Girl pantie and towel
Be Girl towel fixed into pantie
Be Girl menstrual cycle tracker

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) has drastically improved sanitation and hygiene in Ghana’s Zangu-Vuga community.  Prior to the USAID-funded WASH for Health Project, basic sanitation was a formidable challenge, as there were no household or communal latrines in the area. Community members typically practiced open defecation and disposed of refuse indiscriminately. Stagnant waste water created ‘mini ponds’ behind bath houses, which served as breeding grounds for mosquitos and flies.  This produced a terrible stench and limited community members’ ability to sell food outside their homes.

Azindoo Tongo Yidana, commonly called Chief Tidoro, is a 34-year-old man with five children in a polygamous family of 16 people. He and his two wives were born and raised in Zangu-Vuga. Like other families in the community, Chief Tidoro and his family are peasant farmers and cultivate maize around their house, but he admits that “we are not able to eat roasted maize (Kawan sheira), and harvesting becomes difficult as a result of feces.” Open defecation has also caused significant other problems for his family; as he explained: “The bad smell and awful sights surrounding the house made us feel lazy to harvest or even roast the maize. Health challenges such as cholera, stomach pains, diarrhea and others were common in the family. The elders in the house used to expose themselves to people by defecating in bushes and [other] open places.”

Then, in June 2017, through the WASH for Health Project, Global Communities sent a five- member team of interns from Ghana’s University for Development Studies to the Zangu-Vuga Community. For two weeks, the interns worked with the community to update action plans and develop community maps to help visually identify places where members cook, relax, eat, and practice open defecation. Action plans reinforced efforts for households to construct their own latrines, and taught the importance of Tippy Taps (simple, cost-effective handwashing stations), Soak Away Pits (large pits that accumulate waste water and keep the community clean) and healthy hygiene behaviors.

The interns organized an initial community meeting at the chief palace, where many people, including the Chief Tidoro, elders and other community members were present. Participants were divided into two groups: people who owned a household latrine and people who did not. Though Chief Tidoro was a highly esteemed community member, he was grouped among people who did not own a latrine. He felt ashamed that he advocated against open defecation practices, but did not own a latrine himself. Chief Tidoro was receptive to the sanitation messaged relayed by Global Communities, and was so inspired and motivated that he completed digging a pit for his own household latrine the very next day. And, within one week, he had a beautifully painted improved latrine with a functional Tippy Tap attached.

The Chief happily reported, “My wives no longer complain of flies when selling food outside the house. We now harvest and eat roasted maize without worrying about feces. We don’t deal with bad sanitation and hygiene-related illness in the family anymore. Our image and dignity is now intact as we no longer have to expose ourselves in bushes and open places.”

Chief Tidoro has truly proven that ‘leadership by example’ can change lives. By practicing healthy sanitation behaviors and properly disposing of refuse, Chief Tidoro and his family have served as a positive example for the Zangu-Vuga community. 

“We used to defecate just anywhere in the bushes around us and we saw nothing wrong with that practice,” explained Kujo Bekui Agboza, a resident of Bekuikope, a small farming community in the Adaklu district of the Volta region in eastern Ghana. Like many communities in the region, the residents used to practice open defecation. According to the UN, 19 percent of the population still practices open defecation—a major health risk in Ghana, especially among children and other vulnerable groups.

 

Bekuikope in its sanitized state

 

For the residents of Bekuikope, it was a long, hard journey of consistent practice and behavioral change, but they are now proud to be deemed a ‘Sanitized Community.’ The residents of Bekuikope were assisted along their journey by Global Communities, who began working with the community as part of the USAID WASH for Health project. Global Communities worked with residents to implement a process called Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), an approach which has been used to educate communities and help eliminate open defecation around the world.

It takes a lot of communal effort and resolve to achieve the status of a Sanitized Community. A community must first attain what is known as Open Defecation Free (ODF)-Basic status. Then progress to ODF status and then to a Sanitized Community. Ultimately, a community can be certified as a Sustainable Sanitized Community.

 

The ODF signpost

 

A community practicing open defecation is declared ODF-Basic, when there is no visible fecal matter in the entire community for a period of two months. After four months of being ODF-Basic, the community can be declared ODF if at least 80 percent of households can show they have latrines and handwashing facilities. After six months of being ODF, if all households have access to improved latrines with hand washing facilities and all residents are demonstrating proper management of refuse and waste water and good hygiene practices, a community is declared sanitized by a regional verification body. Finally, a community is declared a Sustainable Sanitized Community when it has sustained its sanitized status for three successive years.

The residents acknowledged that it was very difficult during the initial stages because they were not used to the proper sanitation and hygiene behaviors. They also did realize the health implications of open defecation until it was explained to them in a way that demonstrated the path of contamination between open feces and food. Once they understood the fecal-oral transmission of disease, the residents agreed to collectively end the practice of open defecation. This is a process called ‘triggering’—a participatory approach of outlining the negative effects of open defecation with the aim of influencing communities to stop the practice. Kujo was so motivated the process that he enlisted to become a ‘Natural Leader’ in Bekuikope. Natural Leaders are volunteers from the community who are trained in CLTS to help drive the process forward. Kujo recalls how the residents of Bekuikope came together to make their success possible. “We did not hesitate to collectively construct household latrines. We worked together, moving from one house to another, to construct these latrines and rid ourselves of improper hygiene and sanitation practices. But it was fun and interesting,” he explained.

 

Nana Dorga using the tippy tap after visiting her household latrine

 

The community has also witnessed health benefits since they started practicing proper hygiene and sanitation behaviors. Nana Dorgah, a mother of six, noted that the incidence of diarrhea, especially among children, has significantly gone down since the start of the USAID WASH for Health project. “Personally, I have not utilized my health insurance for close to two years,” she said.

As a result of the health benefits and the community prestige and pride that comes with ODF status, the residents of Bekuikope were motivated to go the extra mile. “During the celebration of our ODF status, we were told we could progress further if we desired to. At that time there wasn’t much work to be done, so we consulted the CLTS team on how to safely keep our animals and manage their fecal matter. We were also taught how to treat, store and retrieve the dug-out water for drinking in the dry season,” explains Favor Abbey, a Natural Leader and mother of five.

 

Newly crafted pen for domestic animals

 

The community, with technical support from the Global Communities, crafted pens for their domestic animals. They also constructed barriers around their community water source to protect it from run-off and other contaminants. Maintenance of latrines and handwashing stations by all households remains a daily activity and the community has also begun digging new holding pits for new latrines since the current ones are becoming full.

Kujo, on behalf of the community firmly resolves that “We will continue using our facilities well and continue to project our community in the district. Knowing we are one of the few communities in the entire region to achieve this feat. We the people of Bekuikope, will not relent in our effort to attain the Sustainable Sanitized status!”

ABOUT CLTS: Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is a basic sanitation approach that has been adopted to help combat open  defecation in Ghana.

How it works: the approach is used to mobilise communities to completely eliminate open defecation. Communities are then facilitated to conduct their own assessment and analysis of open defecation (OD) and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free).

Since its introduction 2010 in the Country, the number of organisations implementing CLTS has increased, these organisations include Global Communities, Plan Ghana SNV, RING, WaterAid, Catholic Relief Services, Care International, World Vision etc. Reports indicates that the implementation had moved from 300 communities in 3 regions to 5,000 communities in 9 regions in 2015.

While the approach has successfully been implemented in some districts there still remains some challenges that need to be addressed.

FIELD OFFICES

Accra (Main) Accra (Annex) Takoradi Kumasi Tamale
#63 Tripoli Street #7 Addis Ababa Road  #65 St.Francis Street  #7, Adu Gyamfi Road USAID RING Office
East Legon-Accra East Legon-Accra Anaji Estates-Takoradi Gyinyase-Kumasi Jisonaayili-Tamale