The Local Government Representative believes in the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation after implementing the Make Rights Real approach
By Hasina Parvin, Project Coordinator at Uttaran and facilitator applying the Make Rights Real Approach
Written in collaboration with Simavi WAI WASH SDG Bangladesh sub-programme Team
Mid-2021, the local government officials in the working areas of the WAI sub-programme in Bangladesh, knew little about the human rights to water and sanitation. However, this has improved due to the Make Rights Real Approach.
From baseline to midline
According to the baseline report from the Make Rights Real approach, they handled specific tasks as per the requirements but did not pro-actively reach out to people who might benefit from their support to realise their human rights to water and sanitation. Since then, the midline has shown that the level of understanding of the local government officials has improved.
Programme partners sat together and identified certain local government officials using a ‘’persona exercise''. With all the personas identified, the facilitators met with them in a first meeting to establish the baseline. It came out that the they only provided drinking water and gave little importance to sanitation. In addition, in carrying out their duties, they conducted their own activities using conventional methods, whereby they gave less attention to the poor or did not take additional initiatives in reaching out to those left behind. Instead, the local government officials would usually provide services or support to those who apply for them.
From the end of 2021 until the beginning of the first quarter of 2022, facilitators from DORP, Uttaran and Practical Action regularly met with personas in their working areas and addressed several issues related to the human rights to water and sanitation. A monitoring process was put in place whereby each facilitator would gather information about what aspects related to the human rights to water and sanitation they would with their respective persona, for example issues related to discrimination or water quality. The monitoring of the progress was based on the one hand on the regular discussions that each facilitator has with each persona, and on the other hand on the midline questionnaire that the personas and facilitators filled out. The questionnaire informs about the vision and changes with respect to the human rights to water and sanitation, as well as their opinion on the approach and tools themselves (see below).
Hasina Parvin, Project Coordinator at Uttaran (left) in discussion with Mayor Kalaroa (right).
Since the baseline, we have observed that various personas now work with everyone’s participation and feedback. Going from an informal mechanism at baseline to a formal complaint system with follow up action at midline. And there is a stronger focus on non-discrimination. For example, now they provide quality drinking water without any discrimination and try to provide water and sanitation facilities to the poor people. They value women, people with disabilities, people living in poverty, the socially excluded and disadvantaged people. For example, the mayor provided free drinking water for the people living in poverty in Kalaroa Municipality.
Despite these findings, numerous questions remain regarding how the facilitators can discuss the human rights to water and sanitation more effectively with local government officials and how the Make Rights Real approach might be utilised to increase the impact. The Make Rights Real approach aims to support local government officials to fulfill their functions better, that is for example in a more inclusive and participatory manner, aligning with human rights principles. Because it was difficult to make a solid conclusion on the observed changes since the baseline, the findings actually lead to various questions and aspects that are being considered by the broader Make Rights Real team before progressing towards the endline.
Role of the facilitators
First, the role of the facilitators has proven to be key in the process in Bangladesh. Yet, in our experience, it seems that their knowledge on the Make Rights Real approach can also play a role in the implementation of the approach. Were the workshops at the start of the activity adequate and sufficient? Do facilitators need to have a background in human rights and on the human rights to water and sanitation? What steps or knowledge is required prior to using the tools? These are some examples that the team is now discussing not only to inform the process in the coming half year, but also the overall Make Rights Real approach used across the globe. Make Rights Real materials are meant to be a simple tool that can be used by all advocating for the human rights to water and sanitation locally. Therefore, answering this question is fundamental to making the approach easily used by everyone in all contexts. Moreover, the majority of the facilitators are colleagues that work on programme implementation, with many of them being unfamiliar with the international human rights discussions and global learnings.
With respect to the tools, in light of the midline and the discussions among the facilitators, the team has begun exploring options offered by personas and facilitators to ensure the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation in government actions. During the midline, facilitators discussed with the personas about the Make Rights Real approach and the tools used. Almost all personas liked the tools, but certain sections of the tools were not easily understood by all personas. In addition, the tools were translated into Bangla, but the language used was too complex according to several personas. In light of the above, the team will now proceed with the following:
- The translations of the Make Rights Real tools will be revised again to make the text and words easier to read and understand, thereby making it more reader-friendly.
- Develop additional materials such as videos, blogs, charts, and case stories of personas to showcase how LGIs are realising the human right to water and sanitation.
- Altered exchange of knowledge through regular meetings on content of the human rights to water and sanitation rather than on the process.
The Make Rights Real Team believes that the above points help to boost persona’s ownership and interest and address the challenges the facilitators have been facing when discussing the human rights to water and sanitation. Considering the learnings from the Make Rights Real implementation and the need for highly participative discussions, the Make Rights Real endline date has been extended to early 2023.
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