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Reporting back from the 37th WEDC Conference in Hanoi- Day 4 and 5

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Day 4: Making WASH Safer: Violence, Gender and WASH

Sarah House presented on a learning process and review undertaken in 2013 to better understand the types of violence that can occur related to WASH and identify the good practice that can help WASH practitioners to reduce such vulnerabilities. Through group work, videos, and plenary discussion, we discussed some of the vulnerabilities to violence linked to WASH.  The workshop was also an opportunity to introduce the participants to the recently launched 'Violence, Gender and WASH: Practitioner's Toolkit'. The toolkit was developed to show how lack of access or poorly designed WASH services can increase vulnerabilities to violence and help staff understand what they should be aware of and what they can or should do about it. We also provided guidance for practitioners on how to improve their programming to help reduce these vulnerabilities as well as foster good institutional practices. Again, this issue is an example of an issue where the WASH sector needs to work with others to be most effective. WASH practitioners and other stakeholders can, however, make a very positive contribution to trying to reduce the exposure of those most vulnerable to violence

Day 5

Today I was involved in supporting 2 of the capacity building workshops

Improving documentation in the WASH Sector for Policy, Programmes and Publication

For many the WEDC conference is an important opportunity to listen to staff with grassroots field experience in order to better understand the realities of implementing and managing WASH programmes. Documentation shouldn’t just be the concern of the more bookish colleagues, or left in the hands of gifted writers, it a habit that needs to be developed.  As a sector it is often said that people don’t have much time to read, there are some concerns about the quality of products and some countries and contexts are under-documented particularly true for lusophone African countries and there’s precious little on offer from island nations. This workshop aimed to inspire colleagues to develop the skills, know-how and confidence to share their experiences, ideas and recommendations in a way that leads to the reader taking action. We know that behaviour and habits are difficult to change but better documentation of experience around the globe can help improve the effectiveness not just for direct programming but also underpin claims of what works.

Menstrual Hygiene Management

This half-day workshop, run by WEDC and Plan International Asia Regional Office, introduced participants to the menstrual hygiene management issues faced by women in low income countries related to WASH. Perhaps this would have been unthinkable at a WASH conference decade ago, but WEDC is stretching the boundaries even further - making MHM broader than the needs of schools girls to consider the challenges related to menstruation and WASH faced by girls and women at different stages of their lives, whether in puberty, adulthood and following child birth and during the peri-menopause. This isn’t a one-off, either; a quick scan of conference programmes, journal contents or NGO reports discuss various aspects of this issue. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that so many wish to share their existing knowledge and experience. And with new targets for universal access, the focus on those left out or left behind will require much more consideration in future about how to address this at the programme and policy level.

Sue Cavill is an independent WASH Consultant.

Date: 29 September 2014