Breaking down the hygiene barriers

Challenging taboos and changing behaviours means taking an innovative approach to hygiene, with tailored approaches to the different communities where we work.

Behaviour change is difficult anywhere in the world – which is why talking to communities about hygiene isn't always easy. It often involves challenging age-old taboos, for example those surrounding menstrual hygiene, and asking people to change habits involving handwashing, eating and keeping clean that they've had for generations.

That’s why we don't have a one-size-fits-all approach to hygiene. Instead, we work with partner organisations, members of the community and schools, supporting them to keep clean and healthy so they can spread the word with their friends, family and communities, and ensure the arrival of taps and toilets means the start of lasting change.

The blue hand game, Bangladesh 

Children wth blue hands playing the blue hand game

Diseases such as diarrhoea spread fast in schools, but explaining how germs travel can be tricky. Our blue hand game starts with a football covered in blue powder, and ends with a better understanding of how easily germs can spread to hands and faces, underlining the importance of washing your hands before eating. Photo credit: WaterAid/Abir Abdullah

The puppet show, Antenitibe, Madagascar

Children watching a hygiene puppet show

The first time we held our hygiene education show in Antenitibe, the whole community came out to see the six-foot-tall puppets. The children loved it and the response was overwhelmingly positive – a vital first step in developing good hygiene practices in time for new taps and toilets being installed. Photo credit: WaterAid/ Marco Betti

The poster, Sylhet, Bangladesh

Children holding a hygiene poster

Working with the tea-picking community in Sylhet isn't just about making sure they have access to safe, clean water. We've also been spreading the word about better hygiene through posters like this one, as well as using plays, music and songs to show the benefits of keeping clean and healthy. Photo credit: WaterAid/GMB Akash/Panos

The card game, Duggor village, India

Men playing the menstration card game

Until recently, periods were a taboo subject in Duggor Village, India. Our menstrual hygiene education groups not only supported local girls and women to take control of their monthly bleed, but also motivated the men in the village to support them – including through menstrual hygiene card games like this one. Photo credit: WaterAid/Poulomi Basu

The board game, Kisaki Village, Tanzania

Children playing a hygiene board game based on snakes and ladders

In Kisaki Village, Amina and Isaya play a game of snakes and ladders – with a difference. Their board teaches them the dangers of going to the toilet in the bush and eating fruit without washing it first, and shows how boiling their drinking water and looking after their water source can save them from diseases. Photo credit: WaterAid/Marco Betti