WASH (WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene) United is a non-profit that has developed a unique approach to raise toilet use and good hygiene within low-access communities. Whether it is a campaign to build awareness for the benefits of toilet use or the groundbreaking inception of Menstrual Hygiene Day, all of their interventions tap into aspects of life that people love and are passionate about – such as play, sports, religion, and role models – to create positive messages that connect with people emotionally and inspire change.
We were lucky to have a chat with Kinjal Sharma, a trainer from WASH United, and learn about her insights from working on the ground in areas where sanitation is a dire need.
1. What does your job entail?
I design training material for WASH and Menstrual Hygiene Management Education and lead the implementation of trainings on ground at WASH United. My work is to build the capacity of partners using WASH United’s content and tools, support pilot testing, and monitoring and evaluation.
It’s full of action on some days while just documentation on other days. I travel a lot for training sessions, so I spend a lot of time on-field, conducting and observing training sessions and bringing back lots of insights. Since WU is not an implementing organisation, I become the eyes and ears of WASH United on the ground.
2. What are some of the most complex challenges that plague communities when it comes to menstruation and menstrual hygiene management?
The biggest challenge is that no one talks about menstruation freely. We apply user-centered design methodology in the creation of our content and products. During the research visits, we visited schools from semi-urban areas like Nagpur for user-testing of our products. What we found was slightly different from what everyone, or to be precise, product manufacturers, talk about. Use and disposal of menstrual products remains a challenge, but the bigger challenge is that young girls are unaware of menstruation. There is no education on menstrual hygiene or health and girls are not empowered to make choices and/or take decisions. They are filled with various emotions at menarche, with no one to talk to about them.
3. In what way does WASH United solve issues related to lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene?
WU is a unique mix of WASH sector and in-house creative expertise. We create content and products to address critical issues within the WASH sector. A large part of our work focuses on collaborating with schools, i.e. children and young adults. In order to create content that resonates with our young audience, WU uses play and activity based methodology to educate and bring about a shift in knowledge, attitude, and practices.
4. What can we do to make WASH United’s goals a reality?
You can share and engage with our original content on Facebook and Instagram. Like us, if you believe Menstrual Hygiene Management Education plays a vital role, you can help spread the world by signing our petition to make such education compulsory in schools.
5. What is the training you administer like? What are some of the tools that you use to help menstruators and other individuals that WASH United targets?
I train the trainers. Our training programs for both WASH and MHM are entirely developed keeping WU’s products in focus. We use play and activity based methodologies. I use ice-breakers, focus group discussions, problem tree and solution tree analyses, and other participatory approaches. This means new trainers take on responsibility and active members of an audience. I make sure the trainings are active and the focus remains on engaging the participants.
In particular, I really enjoy conducting training for our MHM Education Guide, a story and activity based tool called ‘Ruby’s World.’ The guide has lots of activities and questions, therefore, the training I designed for it is also filled with activities that are interesting for the trainers
6. How has WASH United disrupted this space and created meaningful change?
We were talking about menstruation when very few people were. In 2018, we managed to reach over 130 Million people across the globe and over 13 Million in India through Menstrual Hygiene Day campaigning. 2018 saw 130 events on MH Day in India alone. These are huge achievements for a small organization like ours.
7. What significant changes do you foresee in this space in the near future?
I definitely envisage an increase in the level of knowledge about menstruation among girls and other genders too. This can also lead to shift in attitude and practices around menstruation, and as a country, we can become menstruation-friendly.
8. Have there been any inspirational moments during your time at WASH United? Is there a story that has driven you?
There are many small stories. I have met some really inspiring people and wonderful kids through my travels for WASH. I still remember this story of a girl who shared how she hid about her periods from her family and arranged menstrual products by herself. Another girl thought period blood comes from her lungs. All these stories come from different parts of India, so we can’t say it’s just one part of the country or just one community. These thought-provoking stories always inspire me to dive deeper and do better every time. This journey has just begun. It brings a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day. I love going back to the field and meeting curious minds.