Social group catalyses hygiene improvements in Kassanda district - Uganda

Group of people stand around well

In this blog, SNV Uganda’s WASH Advisor, Steven Alege, shares how partnering with existing social groups can be an effective way to inspire the fast adoption of sanitation and hygiene behaviours within rural communities.

It’s a bright morning in May 2019 at Joyce Nakawesi’s courtyard in Kampiri village, Bulyamagunju Parish, Myanzi Sub County in Kassanda district. Joyce, a 30-year-old mother of four is the Village Health Team Coordinator of Kampiri village and the Founding Chair of Kyosiga Kyokungula Famers Group. Along with Jennifer Nabisinde, a fellow village resident and secretary of the group, both are at the forefront of hand washing with soap after defecation promotion in Kampiri village.

In November 2018, Joyce attended an SNV training on hand washing with soap at Myanzi Sub County. During the training Joyce was convinced that hand washing with soap after latrine use could effectively reduce diarrheal disease in her village. Upon returning from the training Joyce called for an impromptu community group meeting to share what she had learned. "The group was an easy place to start because if the 25 group members could adopt hand washing behavior, it would give us a good foundation to reach out to the rest of the village members", Joyce said.

Added Jennifer, "We first heard about the importance of having a hand washing facility with soap near a latrine, when Joyce returned from the SNV training. We realised that we needed to do something for our households and the community at large. As group members, we agreed to set up hand washing facilities with soap near our latrines.

But both Joyce and Jennifer did not know how to set up hand washing facilities. They also had concerns about the cost and affordability of setting up these facilities (including sustaining the purchase of soap).

It was at this point that Joyce recalled how SNV trained parish teams to support communities and households to install hand washing facilities across all the villages within a parish. She immediately invited their community's parish team to demonstrate to her group members how to build and install tippy taps at household level.

copyright: Mona van den Berg / Simavi

Community sensitisation on hand washing with soap

Within one month, all 25 group members had been fully sensitised on the importance of hand washing. Each installed hand washing facilities in their homes. During sensitisation activities, the parish team stressed that hand washing with soap protected children against diarrhea.

"The team emphasised how hand washing with soap after using the latrine would keep children healthy. We also understood that protecting the health of our children is important. It is instrumental in achieving parents’ dreams for their children to gain an education, and stay and complete school so that they can serve society", Joyce said.

Immediately after the sanitation needs of all group members were fulfilled, Joyce and Jennifer focused their outreach to village members outside of the group. Their fellow members were also encouraged to raise the awareness of neighboring households.

According to Jennifer, the Local Council I Chair was instrumental in enlarging the reach of their efforts. After learning how to install hand washing facilities, the Chair made a deliberate effort to reach out to male household heads, encouraging them to support the installation and maintenance of their hand washing facilities. Eight months later, diarrhea and typhoid had reduced in the village.

"I used to see many women carrying children on their backs as they made their way to the hospital every morning. I was also a victim. My children suffered the same fate. They too dealt with frequent stomach upsets and diarrhea", Jennifer recalls.

Today, most women only visit the hospital for the immunisation of their children.

Written by Stephen Alege, WASH Advisor


SNV’s Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) approach (for rural areas) works through existing social groups in communities to promote sanitation and hygiene improvements. Because social groups already have structures, meeting routines, and are known within their own communities, once they are primed they become effective catalysts for change.

In Kassanda district, the SSH4A Results Programme team partnered with recognised members of the Kyosiga Kyokungula Famers Group to promote behaviour change in their community. In addition to working with the well-established group, the involvement of the district’s local leaders was crucial. Not only are they highly respected by the community, but they are also in a good position to mobilise and follow up with households' adoption of new sanitation and hygiene behaviours.

Read more about SNV Uganda here.