We believe that citizens who are knowledgeable and empowered are better able to take action in demanding their rights to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) – which is key to achieving universal access. However, it's clear that Malawians are used to a culture of silence, which is negatively impacting the rate of transformation in their society. Citizens aren't calling for improved services, or holding responsible parties to account.

Our work on citizen empowerment dates back to 2015. We began applying the human rights-based approach to our programming, which aimed to promote and secure people's rights to access to water and sanitation. We also focus on building the capacity of civil society organisations, which empower citizens and advocate for their rights to WASH. This creates awareness of WASH rights among duty bearers – improving their responsiveness and heightening accountability.

To this effect, we work with partners to enable people’s capacity to mobilise and organise for collective action on WASH. Previous work has resulted in the establishment of 47 citizen forums in six districts. Collectively, these citizen forums bring together at least 700 change-agents who have been instrumental in inspiring individual and collective action on WASH.

The successes in previous work has led to the positioning of citizen empowerment as one of the priority areas in the 2016-2021 WaterAid Malawi Country Strategy. In this, we want to champion citizen empowerment initiatives so that people understand their WASH rights and responsibilities and are able to claim their entitlements and safeguard them.

Community members in the village of Moffat dig trenches for their new water supply.
Image: WaterAid/Dennis Lupenga

Hygiene behaviour change

Hygiene behaviour change encourages the widespread adoption of safe hygiene practices in order to keep people and their environments clean and healthy.


Children suffering from water related illnesses such as diarrhoea and worm infestations often become ill due to poor sanitation and hygiene in schools.


Without clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene, people's health suffers, especially due to water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea.