Handwashing Behaviour Change: Learning from Water for Women

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This learning brief consolidates and analyses approaches and lessons learnt with regard to improving handwashing behaviours across the 20 Water for Women civil society organisation (CSO) projects in 15 countries. It is based on a rapid scan of the secondary sources available from Water for Women projects, including mid-term reviews, knowledge and learning products, and project reporting. The brief describes strategies partners have adopted to improve handwashing with soap (HWS).

Examples include evidence and data collection with knowledge partners at various levels. The brief also examines social and cultural factors that influence HWS behaviour change. Finally, the brief reports on Water for Women partners’ successful initiatives to promote handwashing before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In brief

  • Handwashing with soap must be at the heart of all WASH programming, because of its potential to maximise and improve health, wellbeing and dignity.
  • Initiatives that have enhanced knowledge and technical skills, strengthened delivery approaches, promoted innovative and new technologies and improved systems should be explored.
  • More monitoring and analysis is required to determine which approaches are achieving the most impact and whether they are being sustained.

Water for Women acknowledges Sue Cavill for the development and collation of this learning brief.

The following partners contributed to its development: Centre for Advocacy and Research India, Habitat for Humanity Fiji, iDE Cambodia, International Rescue Committee Pakistan, Plan International Australia in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands, Yayasan Plan International Indonesia, Research Triangle Institute India, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in Nepal, Bhutan and Lao PDR, Thrive Networks / East Meets West in Vietnam and Cambodia, WaterAid in Cambodia, Timor Leste and PNG, World Vision in Bangladesh, PNG and Vanuatu. We also recognise their leadership and support for handwashing behaviour change across Asia and the Pacific. 

Thanks also to the Water for Women Fund Coordinator team, who played a substantial role in the development of this brief: Dr Alison Baker, Kate Orr, Lee Leong, Stuart Raetz, Jose Mott, Dr Matt Bond. Finally, special thanks to Bianca Nelson Vatnsdal, Gowri Pincombe and Mia Cusack (Water for Women), who led the design of this brief.

This work was supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign

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