Cyeru village of Rusheshe cell is located in Masaka sector, Kicukiro district. It is one of 51 villages pre-declared as open defecation free (ODF) in September 2018 by Isuku Iwacu in collaboration with local authorities. Isuku Iwacu’s objective is to work closely with local authorities across its eight target districts to pre-declare 137 villages as ODF by 2020.
ODF pre-declaration is a long and rigorous process that begins with a comprehensive training on sanitation and hygiene by the program staff targeting local leaders, village committees and community opinion leaders. The training also guides participants on how to map their villages along the sanitation ladder and lessons on what it takes for a village to be ODF.
Local leaders then take leadership in mobilizing villages to construct basic household latrines and ensuring that all public facilities have accessible basic latrines. Isuku Iwacu conducts follow ups in the villages to monitor progress and provide technical support where needed. According to Nyiransekuye Janviere, head of Cyeru village, getting ODF pre-declaration was an uphill task. “We faced a lot of reluctance from the community when we started to mobilize people to construct basic latrines. When we did the village map reflecting the sanitation ladder, only three households in the entire village of 186 households, had access to basic latrines,” explains Janviere.
Janviere herself was not among the three households with basic latrines. “My old latrine was unhygienic. With only two wooden rods laid across the pit, with neither roof nor door, it was very traumatizing to use. One could easily look through and see the inside of the pit and that type of exposure of feces attracted a lot of flies and bad smell. My children often avoid using it for fear of falling in so they would openly defecate,” said Janvier.To effectively mobilize the village, she took it upon herself to construct a basic latrine as to be a role model to her friends and the rest of the community. When she decided to construct their latrine, her husband was very supportive and they immediately started construction. According to Janviere, the latrine cost between RWF 60,000 and 80,000 that they got from their faming activities.
Nyiransekuye Janviere showing the various components their new household latrine
The handwashing station is locally made using locally available materials.
The greatest challenge faced in mobilizing the communities was not lack of finances to construct and purchase materials, as many would assume, but mind-set change. “Although these unimproved latrines were unhygienic, shameful and posed real threats to people’s lives such as falling into the pit, they were commonly accepted even among the well-to-do people in the village. It was the status-quo so challenging this mind-set required a lot of patience with people and tireless follow ups to the point that they got uncomfortable being comfortable with what they had,” explained Janviere.
Ingabire Charlotte’s family is one of the well-to-do families in the villages. In Ubudehe category 3, she and her husband are engaged in various farming activities and run a local bar in Cyeru town. “I also had a very unhygienic and unsafe latrine but it did not bother me until after the trainings we received from Isuku Iwacu. The trainings opened my eyes to see the health risks that I was exposing my children to. Before the trainings, whenever my children fell ill I assumed it was something bad they ate at the neighbors or that even someone tried to poison them” Charlotte laughs as she explains.
Charlotte’s husband was also very supportive of constructing a better latrine for their family after understanding the health risks. According to Charlotte, their latrine cost between RWF 90,000 and 150,000. The couple has also constructed another latrine next to their local bar in Cyeru town. “After we experienced the benefits of our new latrine, we decided to construct one next to the bar for our clients. Before, they would openly defecate outside the bar and in the neighborhood but now we leave the latrine open 24 hours a day and no one is allowed to openly defecate,” Charlotte explained.
Charlotte has become a role model for the village and people from other villages who visit the bar go away inspired to construct the same for their households.
Twagilimana Frederic washing his hands after using the latrine (behind him).
Charlotte cleaning the latrine.
More and more private businesses are recognizing the need for access to hygienic latrines for their clients and customers. Twagilimana Frederic and his wife Uwitenze Ernestine who operates a convenience store have plans to construct a new latrine exclusively for their customers. “Since our home is very close to the store, the customers have been using our family latrine but now we think it is time that we constructed another one as the business is picking up,” explained Frederic.
Janvier advises other heads of villages to be role models for sanitation so that they can easily mobilize and champion construction of basic latrines to work towards ODF villages. She also notes that making use of existing platforms such as Umuganda, Amasibo regular meetings and village meetings to pass on sanitation related messages and information has helped her and other leaders maintain the village as ODF.
“Participating in these meetings and using them as platforms to educate the community on the health benefits of basic latrines was key for us to achieve ODF," said Janviere. "We also used the platforms to update the village on our progress so that those who were still lagging behind would feel the pressure to speed up construction of their latrines. Additionally, we used Umuganda and Amasibo meetings to mobilize the community to support construction of latrines for the poor and vulnerable among us and they worked very well."
Written by Minnie N. Karanja.