Jannatul Ferdous Masuma | Fearless WASH advocate
A well-versed change agent, Jannatul Ferdous Masuma received training on the importance of hygiene behaviour under a project supported by Lindex and WaterAid in a slum at Kallyanpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The people in the slum suffer from unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices. Due to a lack of clean drinking water and decent toilet, their health and well-being were severely affected. Women and girls in the slum had little knowledge about menstruation hygiene management and facilities were inadequate in their toilets until 2018. The 17 year-old-girl Masuma makes a vital contribution in promoting WASH services to the community and helping people in the improvement of hygiene measures. To improve the WASH practices and change the hygiene behaviour, clean drinking water and sanitation facilities were installed in the community.
Along with Masuma, many adolescent girls were given lessons to operate and maintain long-term safe and sustainable WASH services. The project also focuses on empowering girls in WASH services and provide them with a financial stipend.
The change agents started sharing their knowledge to create positive change with the local community people. To ensure the availability of hygiene products such as soaps, sanitary pads, and toilet cleaning materials – the girls started going out to sell the hygiene products to those who are in need. As an entrepreneur, Masuma too sells sanitary pads to the local women and girls which helps her to support her everyday’ s expense.
Masuma said, “At past, slum people did not have any knowledge about living a healthy life and hygiene behaviours. Access to safe water, handwashing with soaps and keeping food safe wasa luxury for many. Even, sanitary products were considered an unnecessary item for women and girls.
Masuma began narrating her story as a change agent, “When I spoke to my community, at first, I did not receive much attention. I was often ignored for being an adolescent. But as time goes by, with continuous attempts and efforts to improve WASH facilities in my community, the people started listening to me.
After the lessons on hygiene behaviour, the community people started washing their hands before eating a meal and after using the toilet in a simple and effective method to get rid of germs. They ensure access to safe drinking water for their family members and using clean water for cooking.
The women and girls started using sanitary napkins during their menstruation instead of dirty rags. They now can freely dispose their sanitary napkins in the covered dustbin in the toilet.
Like before, we do not have to wait in queues to share toilets with the male members and collect water from barrels. Thanks to the modern toilet as people can access a clean and hygienic toilet, which is equipped with running water from the tap, soap, and covered dustbin.
The hygiene behaviour has also helped them to deal with the current Covid-19 pandemic. Masuma said handwashing has become a regular practice for us—thanks to the project “Adapting to the WASH services.” The hand hygiene practice helped us to reduce the risk of Covid-19 in the community.
"Since March 2020, with few other change agents, we have been promoting safety measures and became volunteers to maintain handwashing stations and refill soapy water,” said Masuma.
We have distributed hygiene kits including sanitary pads, masks, cleaning material etc. Twice a day, we announce on the hygiene measure during Covid-19 and distribute leaflets to aware people on safety measures and maintain at least 3fts of social distancing. To date, there has been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in our area. Being a change agent, I am determined to shouldering the responsibility of keeping our slum safe and protected. I believe these wash practices would help us to stay healthy and improve our lives in the near future, said Masuma.