Nepal WASH Blog Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) & Development in Nepal

October 5, 2010

When there is a will, there is a way

Filed under: Advocacy,Citizen Action — Tags: , , — Shikha Shrestha @ 6:36 pm

Images of natural beauties in rural parts of Nepal are so captivating that people are eagerly waiting for trip opportunities to recharge themselves with these natural batteries. WaterAid in Nepal together with Federation of Water and Sanitation Users in Nepal (FEDWASUN) are engaged in citizen action program for promoting governance of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector through constructive engagement of people in WASH interventions. Trip to Dang began with high eagerness to learn and document best practices and efforts carried forward by FEDWASUN Dang to increase WASH access to poor people in Dang. Cloudy path in Nepalgunj flight was reminding us to be positive as “every cloud has a silver lining”. With positive and learning aptitude, we began our journey to Dang.

Photo 1: Cloudy path telling us to be positive

It is true, you get what you look for. We were bestowed with cases of success brought forward by hard works of community members. It was impressive to watch Kuirepani Women Water and Sanitation Users Committee members articulating their needs with government visitors from Kathmandu without any hesitance. It was indeed a sign of empowerment as these women members were telling how they are balancing both their social and family responsibilities together without compromising their dignity. They were proud to share their story of declaring their community as open defecation free zone with support from all community members including men, shares Sita Ale, President of women community member.

Photo 2: Empowered Kuirepani women community

It was not only women as groups who paved their way towards success. There were several individual cases like that of Sajana Budha Magar, a 23 year old single woman from Mankapur. She shared her inspirational story of life transformation after receiving skill based training from FEDWASUN Dang. The training had made her financially independent so that she was no more burden to her family. Even community members were showing us how she used her income for bringing electricity to her home. Financial independency provided her confidence to make decisions of her own life. Organizations like FEDWASUN should continue providing favorable environment for women like her so that she would receive all community support to live her life with pride and security.

Photo 3: Sajana sharing her story of transformation

Kulmohar located in Chailai Village of Dang was location of 65 households of squatter based in government forest area. Prem Bahadur Pun Magar, President of Kulmohar Users Committee shared hardships of women in collecting water from far distance. FEDWASUN lobbied with government agencies to select the squatter area for providing water supply under Community Drinking Water Project. The communities were delighted to have tap in near by area as well as toilet to protect their privacy and protection from wild animals. They were proudly showing their concrete stones as means of alternative income generation as women could invest their time saved from water collection.  It was thrilling to hear story from old lady about using toilet in 81 years!

Photo 4: Old lady using toilet in 81 years

Well established community user committees like Narayanpur and Beljhundi Users Committees had building of their own. They seemed more systematic as they had full paid staff members looking after the user committee interventions. These committees were key source of influencing and lobbying with decision makers. They were working in the areas of raising sanitation awareness so that the concept of open defecation free zone could flourish in whole Dang.

Photo 5: Building of Narayanpur Users Committee

Traces of conflict seemed very faint in comparison to different destinations enriched with clean flow of water. It was like a dream for people who were used to foul smelly rivers. If community are together to manage their resources then it would not be tough to protect natural resources, was the story of the clean flowing water. Wise people should learn from other’s mistakes so Dang should not repeat story of Kathmandu rivers so people will always dream of visiting these natural scenarios. When there is a will, there is a way seems to be the motto of the trip!

Photo 6: Clean flowing river of Dang

Written by Shikha Shrestha, Advocacy and Research Officer, WaterAid in Nepal

July 6, 2010

Musical activism against open defecation practices

Bishnu Dawadi at WaterAid office in Nepal!

Sanitation activist Bishnu Dawadi (picture, right) of Jagatpur VDC in Chitawan District loves to sing. She’s been singing from a young age, and she was a popular singer at her school and college. After college, she joined NEWAH, where she’s been working at its Central and Western Region Office for the past 14 years. Her melodious and energetic sanitation song “jagau, jagau, jagau hey . . .”, which urges communities to stop the practice of open defecation, has made her famous in villages in the mid- and mid-western Nepal. Her song has been praised by civil society leaders, village decision-makers, and government representatives. We recently caught up with Bishnu in Kathmandu for this conversation:

How did you come up with this idea?

I work in rural and remote communities, where people are illiterate. They cannot read and write. Therefore, they cannot understand our sanitation-related documents, posters and other printed public awareness materials. Seeing this, I thought that we had to intervene differently when it came to spreading awareness for sanitation and against open defecation practices.

Songs are very much part of our culture, and everyone enjoys singing them and listening to them. Songs also leave lasting memories in people’s minds. I thought that I should write a sanitation song, and use it to spread awareness.

The opportunity came in May 2009, when I attended Master Training of Trainers Program on triggering tools of Total Sanitation that was run by Community Development Forum (CODEF). They had a song-writing competition among the participants. That competition made me realize my potential. I wrote the song, and realized that there was not any nationally famous song on sanitation. I was overwhelmed when the main facilitator of the training asked me to sing the song in the closing ceremony in front of hundreds of community members, who we visited during the training program. I was astonished to find that they all appreciated and liked my song.

Do you think songs can be used to raise awareness and to influence behaviours?

The song has been used by several community members to raise awareness in different parts of the country. It’s been popular in all the central districts in which NEWAH works, such as Chitwan, Sindhuli, Gorkha, and other places. ActionAid Nepal has used this song to promote awareness through children who enjoyed this song very much. Most of our trainings of WASH have not been complete without singing this song. I believe that music can be a strong medium to change people’s mind and their behaviors.

This song has also been appreciated by government stakeholders. Kamal Adhikary [Sociologist, Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS)] and Madan Kumar Malla [Coordinator, Chitwan Model Sanitation District] have told me that the song carries a powerful message. I feel that song with a strong message can also help change the mindset of policy makers to make sanitation issues a priority for development. Songs like this can generate a response from public officials.

How do you feel about the song?

I feel confident and feel proud to see that this song has helped me create a strong identity for myself in communities. Whenever I sing this song, everyone appreciates it and people start clapping and dancing to it. Some later tell me that the song changed their viewpoints about the importance of sanitation. I feel that people remember me through this song, and that makes happy.

How do you feel about the future of raising awareness through songs in sanitation advocacy work?

I always wanted to spread the message of sanitation awareness throughout the country. It is hard for me or NEWAH to reach all the corners of Nepal. NEWAH’s sanitation policy has included this song as its preamble. I dream of the day when this song is set to music, recorded, turned into a short video and distributed to all parts of Nepal a part of sanitation awareness work. This will inspire others to use their pen to create more sanitation songs that will ensure sanitation access to all Nepalis.

Written by Shikha Shrestha, Advocacy and Research Officer and Anita Pradhan, Documentation Manager at WaterAid in Nepal

Bishnu's song on sanitation on her hand writing

Bishnu singing sanitation song for saathisanga manka kura radio programme

Bishnu singing sanitation song for debate on sanitation and drinking water radio programme

This blog was created by WaterAid under the creative commons licence