In Nepal, WASH-CC members coordinate and monitor WASH activities in their designated municipalities. In July 2019, SNV and Thantikandh Rural Municipality Chair Mr Dhir Bahadur Shahi embarked on a project to reinvigorate the municipality’s WASH-CC. Within 1.5 years, the partnership successfully introduced a WASH-CC that is representative of Thantikandh’s 20,000 residents. Today, the WASH-CC is widening opportunities for more residents to participate in WASH governance and services provision.
Creating a powerhouse membership
Thantikandh’s WASH-CC leadership and membership have become role models to follow.
As WASH-CC Chair, Mr Shahi has been consistent in his push for diversity and inclusivity. Mr Shahi co-leads the WASH-CC with Ms Susmita Singh, the team’s Vice Chair. Ms Singh also happens to be the Chair of the Disability Coordination Committee and the Monitoring Committee. She has been key in raising the visibility of women and people with disabilities in the WASH-CC.
Today’s Thantikandh WASH-CC comprises a team of different identities; by caste, gender, and physical abilities. Of the 11-member team, four are women and seven are men. Four members belong to the Dalit caste, and two members are people with disability.
Strengthening capacities to lead
To enhance the leadership skills of the newly formed WASH-CC, SNV trained WASH-CC members to engage in Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI)-informed action planning and self-reflection. Through these trainings, WASH-CC members learnt to put participatory and meaningful methods of decision-making and implementation in practice.
'Previously, we had little knowledge about the particular WASH needs of people with disabilities and women. The Disability Inclusive Development (DID) training, the inclusive WASH assessment, and several activities organised by the WfW-BFL project sensitised us. These motivated us to include people with disabilities and women in the WASH-CC; at the rural municipality and ward levels.' – Mr Dhir Bahadur Shahi, Chair of Thantikandh RM and the WASH-CC
Strengthening capacities to participate
Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have long been excluded from mainstream WASH governance and planning processes. This exclusion has contributed to DPOs’ disenfranchisement. It also kept people with disabilities from fully enjoying their right to water and sanitation.
SNV’s work facilitated the reactivation of DPOs in districts and their registration as a network. DPO groups were also formed at rural municipality and ward levels. Today, the participation of at least one person with disability in all WASH-CC leadership groups at rural municipality and district levels is being practised.
Cleaning up the environment, improving lives
In February 2020, an 11-member task force developed a WASH Behavioural Change Communication (BCC) strategy. The strategy was complemented by the introduction of a budget line in the rural municipality. A first in Thantikandh’s history.
Six months after, significant improvements in the hygienic use of toilets were discovered by local monitoring efforts. To keep the momentum going, the rural municipality is setting its sights in building inclusive handwashing stations across all government institutions, schools, and health care facilities.
Beyond toilets, the WASH-CC has been exploring ways to improve solid waste management and environmental cleanliness. At the WASH-CC’s advice, the municipality approved the installation of locally made eco-friendly wastebins. These bins are being set-up in over 100 public spaces. Demand for wastebins has created jobs for local artisans, including Dalit families. Made out of bamboo and organised for replacement every six months, six Dalit families and two from other communities are making NPR 500 per wastebin (US$ 4.23). Sanitation workers have been recruited for a month’s pay of NPR 8,000 (US$ 67.64). So far, 11 Dalits (three women and eight men), and seven from other ethnic groups (two women and five men) have been recruited.
In December 2020, the municipality endorsed the WASH-CC advice to set up a help desk for the WASH needs of people with disabilities.
Enabling legal frameworks
For Thantikandh’s leaders, WASH access and services for everyone, everywhere also means ‘by everyone.’ This is why GESI approaches have been key in the municipality’s design for change within leadership formations.
But also, inclusive national policies have served as important foundations for these achievements to be realised. Beyond the WASH Sector Development Plan 2016-2030, the Ministry of Urban Development’s GESI Operation Guidelines 2013 provides a legal framework to resource gender and social inclusion activities in development programmes. Further, the Local Government Operation Act 2017 stipulates that local decision-making bodies must have at least two women and two people with disabilities within local government-led formations. The Disability Rights Act 2017, supplemented by the Disability Regulation Act 2020, provide further directives for local governments to allocate budgets for inclusive development. These legal frameworks provide guidance and bases for development priorities, and supportive resources going forward.
Note: SNV's WASH work in Nepal is an SNV partnership with the the Australian Government's Water for Women Fund (WfW). Click to learn more about SNV's WASH work in Nepal. To view the range of WfW projects in Asia and the Pacific, visit their website.
Photo: Local partner demonstrating the difference between hands washed with water only, and water with soap during a BCC session in Thantikandh rural municipality; pre-COVID. (Dan Bahadur Kathayat/WfW-BFL project/Everest Club)
For more information, contact: Min Prasad Basnet, WASH Advisor in Nepal by email.