“Doing it for themselves”, grassroots leadership for community development.
In June of 2011, Rose Veleio travelled from Temotu, Solomon Islands to the informal settlement of Henderson, just outside Honiara with her husband and four children to visit relatives. Enjoying her time there, Rose decided to stay and took on work selling Nambo (breadfruit chips) whilst two of her children went to school. Rose’s husband returned to Temotu with the other two children to continue his job there.
While in Henderson, Rose has gradually noticed the WASH situation around her. Everyone in the community used the local creek to defecate and Rose and her children also used the digging and burying method at night. Like many of the locals, Rose was used to this situation and did not see any issues with it.
Recently, Live & Learn started holding workshops in Henderson about the importance of using a toilet and the dangers of open defecation for community health. Rose attended several of these workshops and described the effects of these meetings on her:
“The Live and Learn workshops were an eye opener for me. They made me realise the danger I was putting my children, myself, other members of my community in.”
Following these workshops and witnessing a diarrhoea outbreak across the country, Rose realised the importance of practicing good sanitation and hygiene.
“I could not imagine that we were defecating in the creek and using it at the same time to catch fish to feed our family. I decided to be a strong advocate in my community for hygiene and sanitation.
I realised that hygiene is everybody’s business, I must take action.”
Rose’s first step was making the decision to buy a toilet for her family. In order to do this she joined a local SPBD (South Pacific Business Development) Micro Finance savings club in order to start saving for a toilet. At the same time Rose kept learning about the importance of safe sanitation and hygiene practices, such as hand washing with soap at key times.
Henderson, as an informal settlement, has little in the way of community organisation, but Rose gladly became involved in the WASH Committee that was encouraged to be established through Live & Learn’s project. From here, Rose started growing into the water, sanitation and hygiene advocate that she is today. Within her savings group Rose promoted the importance of having a proper toilet for the family and did one-on-one house visits to her neighbours to mobilise them to become involved in the Henderson WASH Committee, of which Rose has since been elected the female zone representative.
Being part of the zone committee has led to Rose making even bigger positive impacts on the health of her community. She has continued to encourage families to join savings clubs and purchase a toilet through regular savings. Furthermore her zone has made plans to undertake fundraising activities to supplement the savings for some families that may struggle to afford toilets otherwise. In this way they aim to ensure toilets are affordable to all, and they can stop open defecation in their community.
“Our zone is aiming to achieve open defecation free status so that other zones can see that we are serious about our sanitation and health issues. People in my community are starting to see that there are no free handouts, and that they must take ownership of issues that affect them and their families, and must be the first to make a start to help themselves.”