Learning and reflections from the 40th WEDC conference

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The theme of this year’s conference was “Local action with international cooperation to improve and sustain water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services”. Participants came from many different countries, organizations, governments and universities and many papers, poster presentations, espresso slots, side events and capacity building workshops took place. The one day CLTS Sharing and Learning workshop hosted by the CLTS Knowledge Hub was held before the main conference. Participants at this event shared CLTS practices, innovations, research completed, needed and ongoing, as well shared their experiences of ODF slippage and solutions for supporting the most disadvantaged groups. We had interesting group work on the various topics and learned about new approaches, ideas, ongoing practices and solutions.

The conference started with a plenary discussion and updates on WASH by delegates. During the conference many interesting papers on MHM, sustainability of ODF, inclusion and exclusion in WASH, and use of the media for learning were presented. Carol Galvin, presented a paper arguing that MHM needs a multifaceted and mainstreamed approach. The Girls for Girls programme in schools–integration of education, health, economic empowerment for school girls- helps the school girls not only to be aware on MHM but also added sources of income which make them economically independent. The presentation showed how WASH infrastructure is a key factor for MHM.

A paper presented by Corinne Benjamin focused on the gaps and existing knowledge on LBTI and sanitation, highlighting that sanitation efforts had missed out non-normative gender identities. In this respect, there are similarities between the situation of LGBTI in developed and developing countries. Sue Cavill also highlighted the need for CLTS processes to emphasize equity, understanding and support for vulnerable groups. She presented on do’s and don’t’s during triggering, for example for the inclusion and empowerment of people with mental health conditions. Another presentation gave insight into how social media can be used for real time documentation, learning and improving WASH activities. This was illustrated with the case of Cambodia where use of social media contributed to bringing about change in sanitation and triggered the people for way forward.

A half day capacity building workshop hosted by the CLTS Foundation introduced the CRAP TOOL with six pillars for the national status and quality of CLTS. A side event by Plan International UK and WaterAid looked at formative research to capture actual barriers against sanitation and at selection of BCC activities for behaviour change.
Overall I had a great learning and sharing experience during the conference which broadened my mind about the linkages of WASH and its multi sectoral integration, success and failure regarding ODF sustainability, inclusion, MHM and the use of ICT for tracking sanitation progress.

Kalpana Dishwa is Field Specialist forRWSSP-WN II in Pokhara, Nepal.

Date: 28 July 2017