Imagine you are living in a rural community. You have a family to fend for. To make ends meet, you practice subsistence farming and also run a small grocery, meaning that time and again, you go to a trading centre for merchandise to stock your grocery.
Then, a health promoter visits your village and asks you to combine with selected members of your village to form a team of hygiene promoters for the village with the following tasks: conducting monthly door to door checks to take records of households with latrines and hand washing stations, appealing to laggards to construct latrines, facilitating hygiene promotion meetings and representing your village in meetings concerning health promotion among others. Would you be comfortable?
Obviously, the expectations of the team of hygiene promoters are just too much. To perform those roles in their fullness, you would need to sacrifice your treasured time from your grocery store and farming, which will consequently crumble your financial status.
That is the situation in which community members usually find themselves especially during facilitation of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). They are nominated as natural leaders and assigned uphill tasks in spite of their other routine activities for survival. Surprisingly, the nominees simply accept their new roles without objection. But when it comes to action, not all of them perform their roles dutifully because they are preoccupied with other things and hardly find time for their new roles. By and large, this has been a setback.Â
In my work as water and sanitation coordinator, I prefer working with village health committees (VHCs) in CLTS facilitation. This really works as evidenced in group village headman Madzumbi and Chauwa under Traditional Authority Mazengera in Lilongwe where World Vision has clinched successes in sanitation promotion. However, although VHCs are supposedly a well established structure in the community, their members too have other things to do and can easily give up sanitation promotion roles if not motivated.
VHC members like everybody else involved in community work as a volunteer would be excited if somebody appreciated their work and provided them with regular feedback. This avenue would motivate them to carry on. VHCs have to be involved in regular meetings. It can be monthly meetings to review their work for instance, and they do not have to pocket allowances â€“ only lunch and refreshments are enough. Special presents can also be given to them as a token of appreciation where implementers are comfortable â€“ why not? Such incentives are a bait that propels them forward to faithfully carry out their roles. However, most implementers fail to empower and keep VHCs going. Even the Government of Malawi has not done much to uphold VHCs. Arrangements are made to form and train VHCs every year, but they continue facing natural deaths as well because they are sidelined.
Like everybody else, volunteers in the rural communities are motivated when they receive a pat on the back for their commitment and also when they are engaged in review meetings regularly. Hygiene promotion volunteers ought to be treated in the same way if they are to be sustained. –The writer is Wash Coordinator at World Vision Malawi