Growing from Strength to Strength: the Ruteng women PAR group tackles COVID-19


As you weave through the rolling landscape of Eastern Indonesia, up along mountain ridges, past lines of banana trees, clusters of coffee plants and cattle wandering alongside busy roads, you’ll eventually arrive at Ruteng. It is here, that something wonderful is happening, it is here that you will find the Ruteng Women’s Group, a dedicated group of marginalised women working with their communities to promote safe, accessible and inclusive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).


"It is very important for women to be a part of water, sanitation, and hygiene activities," says Krispina, a leading member of the Ruteng women’s group, "We are the ones responsible for our households, but also for influencing our families and communities on changing behaviour."


These women formed the group after stepping forward to join the women Participatory Action Research (PAR) group, an initiative delivered under the Plan International's ‘WASH and Beyond –Transforming Lives in Eastern Indonesia’ project, supported by the Australian Government, through Water for Women.


They had always been passionate about the health and safety of their families and their communities, and this PAR group gave them the confidence and voice to do something about it.


Their positive influence on the community resonated so greatly that the local government took steps to make them members of the regional STBM (‘Total Sanitation’ including sanitation and hygiene) team. The Camat (local district leader) even gave the women the use of his car to work with the broader community on WASH related issues to ensure they could reach as many people as possible.


The challenge of COVID-19 has given the Ruteng Women’s Group even more purpose in their work, they found creative and engaging ways to tell their stories of the impacts of COVID-19 to their communities. They began by writing songs and taking photographs. In considering their next steps, they decided it was important to learn more about hygiene practices that would reduce the spread of COVID-19 and undertook online training provided by Yayasan Plan International Indonesia on handwashing and wearing protective gear such as face masks.


By combining their love of singing and dancing and their new found knowledge around COVID-19 prevention, the women created a song about handwashing and facemask wearing and recorded it as a way to amplify their message and help it reach the broader community through online social media channels.


This is a wonderful example coming out of Indonesia of what happens when women are given a voice and the opportunity to contribute to the health and wellbeing of their community. Thank you to Plan International and the Ruteng Women’s Group for working hard on COVID-19 preparedness and response in your communities and beyond!


A COVID-19 response is a WASH response.


In Indonesia, our partners Plan International and Yayasan Plan International are on the front line of the COVID-19 response.


Plan have have adapted their WASH activities to respond to COVID-19 by focusing on strong behaviour change tools and approaches to raise awareness across their project communities, whilst maintaining their focus on gender and social inclusion.


This has involved a mix of direct hygiene promotion within communities as well as broader health and prevention communications through radio and social media campaigns, such as this fantastic animation. These efforts have helped Plan reach an estimated 43,000 people with important hygiene and prevention messaging.


Plan has also been supporting women and people with disabilities to adapt their work and businesses to meet the new demands brought about by COVID-19 for protective clothing such as fabric face masks.  



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