Handwashing with soap protects countless lives, but in emergencies, where the risk of infectious disease is heightened, urgent messaging campaigns can quickly lose impact. With a large proportion of displaced communities under the age of 18, hygiene promotion activities need to include children and teenagers, along with mothers of younger children, as primary targets.
One-way communication tools produce questionable long-term behaviour change results. Our approach raises awareness through a specially-made puppet film, but it also requires that community groups themselves make meaningful connections through collaborative storytelling activities using age-appropriate puppetry techniques that attract people’s active engagement.
No Strings works with some of the leading creators of the original Muppet Show to make culturally-sensitive films that are central to our behaviour change programmes. Our new film, Time to Wash, equips local health promoters with a fun tool that attracts the attention of target groups around issues linked to handwashing with soap. It includes a catchy song and has been dubbed into several local languages.
The second part of our innovation is a range of playful, storytelling tools that stimulate genuine participation, so that target group members interpret messages together using engaging puppetry techniques like shadow theatre, models, or making Mr Poop sock and Germ puppets.
Puppetry allows for the abstraction of sensitive or taboo issues, and therefore for problems, barriers and solutions to be identified and discussed more openly. The approach furthermore gives affected communities a voice that can feed into facility provision and maintenance.
Working in partnership with Northumbria University and CRS, No Strings International will evaluate the processes involved in reaching target groups effectively in order to understand which parts of the innovation work best, how different target age groups respond, conditions and resources that allow health promoters and community volunteers to contribute most effectively, and identify key challenges. Supporting this process assessment, we will define a strategy and conduct an impact assessment.
Taking these findings into account, a professional film crew will work in country to create a video manual to support the ongoing training of community volunteers in the target region, and which can furthermore be used to take the project to scale in additional humanitarian settings in the region. The expected outcome is thus a fully-packaged tool to support behaviour change programmes around handwashing with soap within a wider infectious disease risk management framework.
As their handwashing project comes to an end, No Strings International share share their reflections, learnings and future plans.View
Children in Kawangware use shadow puppets to bring to life one of the main barriers to washing hands with soap that they had identified: ignorance.View
Faced with a lack of brown socks and plastic bags, the team had to come up with a new craft material.View
When puppet Soluf comes to play with his friend, and his friend goes home for food and nobody washes their hands; that friend is sick the next day.View
The team run a workshop in Nairobi, to see how children respond to the NSI Time to Wash film.View
Learn more about this WASH project, and many others, in our Humanitarian WASH Innovation Catalogue.
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