Impact from Inclusive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program

6 min read
Mr Troeurn

I am Rozin, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager at WaterAid Cambodia. Last year, I blogged about training government staff on Cambodia’s new inclusive WASH guidelines; since then, we have been implementing the guidelines in Kampong Chhnang province. Here is what we have been doing.

What is inclusive WASH?

Inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) occurs when the entire community, including people with a disability, elderly people, and pregnant women, benefit and participate equally from WASH programs and processes. Inclusive approaches to WASH encourage awareness of and participation by all marginalised groups.

Who Experiences Marginalisation in Cambodia?

When I first started working with WaterAid, we focused our work on persons with disabilities, as they face some of the biggest challenges in terms of access to WASH. We have gradually expanded our work to support other groups, including female garment factory workers, construction workers, women groups, floating communities, and urban poor communities. 

Program on Inclusive WASH

WaterAid has been supporting the Ministry of Rural Development to develop and implement the national guidelines on inclusive WASH, which guide WASH implementors on how to be more inclusive in their programming.

The program aims to ensure that Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), an approach which mobilises communities to completely eliminate open defecation, is inclusive. Representatives of the community conduct an assessment of open defecation in their villages, upon which they invite village members to define an action plan to eliminate open defecation. All aspects of the process focus on including persons with disabilities and elderly people, including initial assessments, implementation of activities, follow up household visits, and final assessments

Last month, I interviewed two people who live in the commune where we have been implementing our program. They shared their stories with me and told me how our program has impacted their lives.

Sreymom inclusive WASH

Sreymom: Experiencing Pregnancy

Ms. Sreymom told me her life has changed since an accessible tube well and a latrine were installed in her house, thanks to the involvement of the village chief in the inclusive WASH program. As a result, Sreymom and her family spend less time and energy to collect water and are healthier than before.

Sreymom is a villager of Prey Mean village in Kampong Chhnang province. She lives in a small house made of wood and palm leaves – which leaks in the rainy season. She is 39 years old; her and her husband have 3 children, two boys and one girl. They work in harvesting seasonally, but she is currently staying at home taking care of her children, and her husband is working on a construction site.

In the past, she had to fetch water from her neighbour’s house, which is about 60m from hers, using a pole with two buckets. In order to fill a water jar, she needed to go back and forth 10 to 20 times and had to repeat this process every three days. Her husband and son sometime helped her to get water from the neighbour when they were free from work and school.

One day, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach. She went to the hospital; the doctor told her she was pregnant but had lost the baby because of the heavy lifting to fetch water. This only toilet available was too far for her to walk, meaning she had to use a potty from her bed, in a room full of other patients.     

As a woman, she is responsible for all domestic tasks, including cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children. She would like men to share these responsibilities; then, she could have time to do other things and relax.

She participated in a community meeting on road construction, environment and self-hygiene, but she didn’t speak up. During the meeting, the village chief talked about the importance of building latrines to make the village open defecation free and improve the villagers’ health and hygiene.

In the future, she wishes to have a house that is protected from the sun and the rain.  She would like to participate in more community meetings, not only to learn more about hygiene, but also to discuss these topics with other villagers. She hopes that there will be meetings closer to her house and that they will also be fun!

Mr Troeurn

Mr. Troeurn: Living with a Disability

Mr. Sao Troeurn is 72 years old and lives in Kampong Chhnang. Him and his wife have one daughter and one son. Following an accident during harvesting 6 years ago, he became paralysed on one side of his body. He can now only use one of his hands and can only see from one eye.

Although his house is connected to the Kampong Chhnang pipe water supply, he struggles to wash himself as he has to scoop water from the basin in the bathroom. He often falls trying to sit and stand up from the toilet pan of his squatting toilet, and has difficulty cleaning himself after defecating. His daughter, son-in-law, and his wife all support him to use WASH facilities.

He has never participated in community events or social activities, because he is unable to walk far and his family doesn’t take him to these events. Moreover, the village chief usually only invites his family members, as he assumes that he cannot join, leaving Mr. Sao Troeurn isolated from the rest of the community.

Through the program, the village chief has increased his understanding on inclusive WASH at community level. As a result, Mr. Sao Troeurn’s toilet has been modified: he now has a proper toilet seat and a ramp with a handrail. This small modification has changed his everyday life considerably, as he is now able to walk to the toilet and use it on his own. 

In the future, he would like to participate in community meetings in order to receive new information, participate in decision-making and contribute to the development of his village development. So far, however, no one has invited him or offered to assist him to transport him to the meeting so that he can participate. He hopes that there will be meetings closer to his house and that he will be able to participate fully.  

What next?

I am now working with WaterAid’s Sustainable WASH program to strengthen the capacity of district WASH committees in terms of expertise and resources on inclusive WASH, and to develop demonstration sites for accessible WASH, enabling sector implementors to see what these solutions look like in practice and to integrate it in their programming. In addition, we have been conducting a scoping study to identify who experience marginalisation, as well as why and how they are excluded.  Through this study, individuals and groups who experience marginalisation are empowered to document their WASH situation: barriers they face and wishes for future WASH infrastructure and services. I am really passionate about this work as I have the opportunity to work with them in improving their day to day lives.

This project is supported by the Australian Government.