By Joseline N. Annan and Cynthia Fosuah, WV Ghana
Sherifa is a nine-year-old girl living in a community called Dingoni, in Ghana. This fun-loving girl, only child to her parents, has become a champion for change in her community.
Her school participated in the WASH UP! Programme, an initiative developed through a partnership between Sesame Workshop and World Vision that helps children understand and adopt healthy sanitation and hygiene behaviours to improve their overall health and well-being. Teachers are trained in good sanitation and hygiene practices, and they use WASH UP! games and materials to deliver fun, engaging and educational WASH behaviour-change messages to school-age children.
These children not only change their behaviour, but they bring the behaviour home to their families.
As an active participant in her WASH UP! session, Sherifa is now a WASH superstar and happily helps to educate other children in her school and community.
Sherifa loves to sing the handwashing songs she has learned, and says: “I taught my friends how to sing the song and practice good hygiene, like washing the bowls right after eating and not walking bare footed.” As child change agents, Sherifa and her friends monitor handwashing stations in the community to ensure there’s enough water and that soap is made available at each of the stations.
Muneratu, Sherifa’s mother said, her daughter has adopted new personal hygiene practices. She said that, before WASH UP! Sherifa hardly washed her hands unless she was told to, but now, she washes her hands with soap under running water before eating and after using the toilet facility. “She even remembers to brush her teeth and always washes the bowls at home. I am happy that Sherifa has taken up the responsibility to teach other children about hand washing and personal hygiene.” Sherifa’s new habits have even reminded her parents to be more consistent with their handwashing behaviour.
Sherifa’s story embodies perfectly the theme of this Global Handwashing Day (15 October): Our Hands, Our Future. When children are engaged, not just as individual practitioners of a behaviour but as active participants in effecting change, they promote the positive, sustainable change we all seek so that all children can not only survive but thrive.
Join us on Wednesday, 11 October, at 1300h UTC, for a webinar to learn more about the WASH UP! Programme and how Sesame Workshop and World Vision have committed to strengthening hygiene messages around the globe. Learn about the webinar and register here.
The WASH UP! pilot programme has so reached about 1000 school children in 25 schools within Ghana’s Savelugu Nanton municipal district andfifty teachers have been trained. An additional 75 schools, 150 teachers, and 3,700 students have been impacted during initial scale-up activities. As behaviour is changing, community members are seeing a reduction in cases of diarrhoea.
The Sesame MuppetsTM (Raya & Elmo) have the unique ability to talk to children, model behaviours for them, and give them the language to talk about taboo topics like toilet use. Also, as a strong female character, Raya empowers young girls to take hold of their health and become healthy. Raya pioneers conversations all over the world about clean water, hand washing with soap, and proper latrine use through three, easy-to-share reminders that they can teach to family, siblings, and friends:
· Wash hands with soap before meals and after using the toilet.
· Use safe toilets to defecate, and wear sandals to the toilet
· Drink only clean water to stay hydrated and healthy.