Youth championing water, sanitation, and hygiene in Mongolia
During the COVID-19 pandemic, proper water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in schools is more important than ever, and youth are leading the way
As the schools began to re-open on 1 March only in the rural provinces, UNICEF works to promote handwashing and healthy hygiene practices among adolescents and youth. School children in the countryside have limited access to soap and proper handwashing and sanitation facilities which makes them extremely vulnerable to infections. In addition, children do not receive age-appropriate hygiene education as part of their regular curricula at school.
So in partnership with the Scout Association of Mongolia, UNICEF has initiated a behavior change campaign led by the youth themselves to promote proper handwashing.
“Washy Warrior” Training for Adolescents
The Scout Association of Mongolia organized “Washy Warrior” training in order to train adolescents as peer educators on the main topics of water, sanitation, and hygiene. So far, over 600 adolescents in 10 provinces of Mongolia have received the training.
Those trained adolescents carry out awareness-raising activities on hygiene promotion and disseminate COVID-19 prevention information to their peers.
Due to the pandemic and lockdowns, the Scout Association created “Washy Warrior Mongolia” Facebook page which provides information and advice in the form of videos and posts. For example, the Scout project's team provided students with videos on how to participate in online meetings, instructions on how to use the ZOOM application, tips and the importance of handwashing, how to make soap, hygiene tips, and information for students.
In honor of World Handwashing Day, “Wishy Washy” a video recording challenge was announced under the motto “Let's wash our hands with soap”. More than 20 works were submitted to the challenge and it reached more than 270,000 people. As our peer educators said, number of students who wash their hands regularly has increased but we have not monitored actual attitude or behavior change yet.
Along with these training sessions, The Scout Association organized a workshop for adolescents to teach making affordable, and environment-friendly soaps. This creative and innovative project aims to supply soaps to school sanitation facilities and promote the practice of handwashing with soap. Many children do not have access to soaps at schools due to limited school budgets. According to the estimation made by a local NGO, one child uses only one soap for the entire school year. Therefore, adolescents were eager to learn how to make soap and use them at school.
Around 20,000 soaps are planned to be produced by young volunteers and to be distributed in 28 schools, and the cost of each soap production was 250 MNT (0.09 USD).
B.Narantsetseg, one of peer educators from Zavkhan province says, “As pupils, we have thought about how we could contribute to our school. Then I learned how to make soap, not only for school use but also for personal use at home. This soap is eco-friendly and doesn't cost a lot of money to make. Soap with so many advantages! Thank you to UNICEF Mongolia and Washy Warrior team for teaching me how to make this soap.”
After training sessions, children voluntarily established Hygiene Clubs at schools where they can promote healthy hygiene behaviors among their peers.
Accurate and child-friendly COVID-19 prevention and hygiene information and educational materials are rare for adolescents. Therefore, the Scout Association developed short videos and brochures for adolescents and made those materials available on social media channels.
Also, a handout on better water, sanitation and hygiene in schools was developed for Hygiene clubs to guide their school-based activities. This handout includes all the important information that supports better water, sanitation, and hygiene in schools.
“As schools are reopening in Mongolia, youth-led hygiene clubs, volunteers and peer educators will play a vital role have in raising awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap and changing behaviors of children at school. I was proud to experience the young volunteers and scouts bring the knowledge and information sharing to the next level. Their engagement methods during trainings kept children’s focus which proved their strive for knowledge and information. Those unconventional hygiene educational activities will increase not only the awareness of handwashing with soap but also will increase the use of improved water and sanitation facilities,” said Ms. Ariuntungalag, WASH project officer at UNICEF Mongolia.