May 2018: Fauzia, the selfless sanitation campaigner

Fauzia the selfless sanitation campaigner

In this edition …

Toilet Agenda features a selfless Field Facilitator who would give off her all to ensure that communities under her jurisdiction stop open defecation – Fauzia Issahaque in the Wa West District of the Upper West Region.

Remarkable achievement

Through demonstration of passion and sustained interest in the work she does, Fauzia has managed to help 27 communities in her Area Council to stop open defecation, while at least four of every five households in those communities have constructed and are using latrines. In 2016, Fauzia was named the best Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Field Facilitator in the Upper West Region, where all eleven Municipal/District Assemblies are implementing CLTS.

Personal profile

Result-oriented, young, beautiful, educated, jovial, and married with a child, Fauzia hails from Wa, the Capital of the Upper West Region of Ghana. She possesses a certificate in Environmental Health from the Tamale School of Hygiene and a Diploma in Water and Sanitation from the University of Cape Coast.

Official role

Fauzia is a Field Facilitator in the Community Led Total Sanitation Programme in the Wa West District of the Upper West Region. She has been assigned the Dorimon Area Council, comprising about 87 communities, to promote improved sanitation. She is mainly expected to ensure that each of these communities become open defecation-free and that everybody living in the area uses an improved household latrine. She is a full-time staff of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Unit of the Wa West District Assembly, which is expected to bear the cost of transport and any necessary logistics to facilitate her work.  She is expected to visit each community, engage the people through effective behaviour change communication, and monitor progress to achieve her assigned targets.

Limitations in official role

Some of the limitations in the official role of Fauzia, as to be expected from almost every District Assembly in Ghana, are projectization of sanitation interventions and inadequate funding. While behaviour change interventions are supposed to be an on-going exercise, reliance on support from External Support Agencies mostly result in development of short-term projects. There are therefore times where there are no funds to sustain community visits and monitoring because a project cycle has ended, slowing down the behaviour change process.

Again, Fauzia says some of the communities are very unresponsive to the change process. In such communities it takes a dynamic facilitator and more resources to achieve set targets. Such communities sometimes have perceptions about the fact that an external agency (or government) will support them to construct latrines one day. They therefore refuse to prioritize defecation matters.

Passion and Selflessness

Fauzia has proven to be exceptional; she is undaunted by lack of funds or end of project cycles. She continues to visit communities by sponsoring her own trips during such periods (perhaps with the exception of the official motor bike that she uses but has to fuel it herself) until there are official resources to continue her work. Though as a CLTS Field Facilitator it is her responsibility to perform the role assigned to her, her passion for results beyond what can be reasonably achieved within the official means provided makes her look more than a campaigner than staff.

“My motivation is passion for the work and the joy to see entire communities live a healthier life in a safer environment. When one of my communities passes the open defecation-free (ODF) verification test I feel I have made a remarkable impact.” She says.

Beyond the ordinary

Determined to overcome unresponsive communities, Fauzia adopts several self-designed strategies to win the attention of her communities.

“I feel compelled to be part of each community I facilitate. I attend funerals, weddings, naming ceremonies, and other social functions and even make voluntary financial donations where necessary just to let them feel I am one of them. When I do these things, they also feel compelled to reciprocate by accepting the messages I bring to them about sanitation and hygiene.” She says.

As repeating the same strategies and messages over a long period in the same community can be boring, Fauzia breaks this monotony by introducing other products in her facilitation process. On her own, she has introduced soap-making, pomade-making, and disinfectant-making in some communities as a means of creating more excitement about her visits while at the same time improving people’s livelihoods. She then seizes the opportunities in their excitement to induce a positive response to her official sanitation and hygiene tasks. In some communities, she personally organized training for Community Technical Volunteers (in basic latrine construction) with her own funds in a bid to induce latrine uptake in communities.

Fauzia has a strategy to manage difficult and non-responsive communities. She does not give up; she rather tries to identify the ‘difficult elements’ in those communities and gradually makes friends with them. She then takes her time to sensitize them until they are fully convinced of the need to stop open defecation and construct latrines. In the long run, she overcomes them and uses the opportunity to trigger the entire community.

Conclusion

To win the fight against the age-old open defecation in Ghana, the country needs everybody to decide to go the extra mile. The moment everybody decides to stop and actually stops open defecation, the entire nation would be open defecation-free. While this may take too long to achieve, Ghana needs committed individuals to champion the change process. Leadership and staff at every level much demonstrate determination and combine same with innovation and selflessness to help the country out of the open defecation menace. In most cases, all that such selfless individuals deserve is public recognition for their efforts.

Article by Emmanuel Addai for UNICEF Ghana