Child rights-based water, sanitation and hygiene in practice

By Kate Lambert, Regional Support Officer – South Asia Team

5 Jun 2014WASH Matters

The child rights-based water, sanitation and hygiene programme was developed jointly by WaterAid and Save the Children Finland and was implemented between 2008 and 2013 in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. We also worked with partner organisations Village Education Resource Centre (VERC), Samarthan and Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH).

The programme’s aim was to combine WaterAid and its partners' experience of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) with the child rights expertise of Save the Children. The result of this was developing a way of working with WASH that would generate a deep and lasting impact for children, leading to improved child survival, health and education.

Aims and intended impact

The intended impact of the initiative was:

  • To improve access to WASH services and practices for all children involved in the project across three countries
  • To create an enabling environment where children, their parents and communities could claim and respect WASH rights
  • To improve WASH services and practices to realise children’s rights to survival, health and education

How was this done?

The activities of the programme were different in each country, but all had the same basic components:

  • Analysing children’s WASH rights to identify the most marginalised people and key stakeholders
  • Developing a meaningful and ethical participation of children in WASH decisions at community level and with the local government
  • Developing support structures at community level
  • Working with local government to be responsive to child rights and developing appropriate accountability mechanisms

The programme in action

A practical and flexible approach, including sufficient time for analysis at the beginning of the programme, was key to the programme’s success. Different activities and mechanisms to effect change were developed in each country.

Bangladesh – Joyful sessions
Joyful sessions are informal and inclusive gatherings of children, where play and learning materials enable them to become confident and express themselves in a supportive environment. The sessions developed children’s leadership and provided an opportunity for meaningful participation.

India – Support groups
In the project villages, young adults facilitated children’s groups and took their issues to the Gram Panchayat (the lowest tier of local government administration) and school management committees.

These groups were made up of enthusiastic young people who had experienced issues relating to water, sanitation and hygiene in their community as children. Support groups have been vital to the success of the initiative in India and will play a fundamental role in sustaining the project beyond its completion (December 2013).

Nepal – Claim register 
A claim register was set up in Nepal to systematically track the issues raised by the community at the Village Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coordination Committee (VWASHCC) level.

Every claim for WASH facilities is registered in the claim register logbook, for the VWASHCC to consider at their meetings. The VWASHCC plans how to address these issues and categorises them as for their attention or to be forwarded to other authorities. This mechanism helps to systematise the flow of demand and response for WASH services from rights-holders to the duty-bearers.

What next?

After the programme ended in December 2013, we undertook a programme evaluation, culminating in a learning and sharing workshop which recently took place in Nepal. Country programmes and partners are incorporating some of the approaches and lessons from the programme into their other areas of work.

More detailed information and guidance on the programme and the approaches developed will soon be available in the form of a handbook. As WaterAid continues to expand its focus on WASH in schools, rights-based approaches and inclusion of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in its work, the rich learning and key successes of this initiative will transform even more lives.

This article is part of our WASH Matters series, regular insights into our programme and project work in Africa and South Asia. Discover more here >