There are many lessons to be had from the COVID-19 pandemic; these include expanding our go-to methods for conducting behavioural change and training workshops. In Nepal, SNV’s efforts to continue sanitation campaigns and trainings in a ‘locked-down world’ were made possible through digitalisation processes and digitising our content.
In Nepal, SNV collaborated with Viamo in a handwashing with soap (HWWS) and menstrual health and hygiene management (MHM) campaign, which was implemented across six districts in Nepal. To ensure consistency in messaging, SNV ensured that COVID-19 related messages aligned with government measures and protocols.
Rapid survey gathering at distance
To kick off the campaign, the partnership conducted a rapid survey gathering HWWS and MHM-related myths/rumours. The partnership started a toll-free rumour tracking hotline, enabling communities to report myths and rumours by phone. Within two months, the hotline garnered 204 contributions, with the highest number of calls coming from Jumla district’s Chandannath Muncipality. Examples of the more widespread and prominent myths include:
- You will go blind if you are infected by COVID.
- We anger the gods when we (girls/women) do not stay in animal sheds when we are menstruating.
Up close and personal, intro to user information on how to access Suchana ko Sansar (SNV Nepal)
An information platform to debunk rumours
Contributions from the rapid survey informed SNV and Viamo’s development of key messages, which were entered into Suchana ko Sansar: a national information platform accessed by 21 million Nepal Telecom (NTC) mobile subscribers.
Key information on HWWS and MHM were shared proactively by SMS to 300,000 people, and pre-recorded voice calls were made to 24,594 people. ‘Thanks to this digital initiative, students are aware of the importance of HWWS and MHM,’ said Min Raj Sharma, head teacher or the Karnali Secondary School. Min Raj Sharma added, ‘After the reopening of schools post-Covid lockdown, we re-initiated WASH activities by forming student’s groups tasked to monitor WASH behaviours in schools. We are trying to change behaviours of students by making them responsible, and we need regular coaching and capacity building on the same.’
Woman from Jumla dials 32100 to receive info on COVID/MHH (Photo: Nandalal Dharala/SNV Nepal)
An interactive game to learn or evaluate hygiene knowledge
In the same NTC platform, SNV and Viamo created a Wanji game, i.e., an audio path-based game encouraging caller-participants to create their respective sanitation journeys. Wanji games are used for social change messaging, collecting knowledge, aptitude, and practices (KAP) data, and sharing information in a fun and interactive way.
Using a basic telephone, caller-participants contact a toll-free number equipped with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. The IVR tells a story and offers caller-participants with a range of scenarios to select from to create their own story path. From these options, caller-participants press the number of their scenario of choice. By engaging with the Wanji game, caller-participants are exposed to different scenarios, become more aware of the multiple decisions that they can take, as well as the consequences of the decisions they make.
The game is widely accessible, reaching remote audiences living in Dailekh and Jumla. It is also available on demand, in several languages, and at no cost to NTC users until August 2022. Within weeks of its launch, caller-participant engagement was at 83%.
Beyond BCC, digitalising WASH trainings
SNV’s experience with digtalising its COVID-19 and MHM SBCC campaign paved the way for the organisation to experiment with digital trainings. Efforts are now underway to facilitate remote training on Standard Operating Procedures on WASH, under the WASH SDG programme.
Contributors: Sunetra Lala, WASH Sector Leader SNV in Nepal and Anjani Abella, Marketing Communications Advisor for WASH, SNV with Aradhana Gurung, Viamo
Banner photo: Poster in Saptari Nepal pointing residents into the direction of digital information platforms for COVID and MHH advice (Photo: Parmeshwar Jha, Sabal Nepal)
 Findings suggest that while digitalisation processes are helpful, it is important to ease users into these types of processes. In Jumla for example, social mobilisers facilitated a community orientation on the hotline and how it works.
 In Nepal, SNV’s digitalisation efforts in water, sanitation and hygiene are supported by the Australian Government’s Water for Women Fund (click here to view project) and the Dutch Government’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation (click here to view project).