It’s been five months since Valentine Uwamahoro says she first heard about the importance of constructing an improved latrine for her family. The USAID-funded Isoko y’Ubuzima project community mobilizers, together with the volunteers of "Twungurane Ibitekerezo," a village savings and loan association (VSLA), visited her community to facilitate access to basic sanitation and hygiene services.
Every member of her VSLA set a goal and made plans for annual savings. Valentine’s goal was to build an improved latrine using her savings of RWF 60,000 (about $56). She convinced her husband to top up the savings made from the VSLA by RWF 80,000 (about $75).
"We have benefited," says Valentine, confirming that this investment was worth it. "The latrine we had before was of poor quality, not deep enough, and almost full, resulting in poor hygiene. Flies were everywhere, and we were getting ill because of poor hygiene."
Their previous latrine was made from corn straws, covered with a wooden roof, and only 3 meters deep. "During that visit, the community mobilizing volunteers told us that the standard latrine is between 10 and 15 meters deep. Now, we meet this requirement," Valentine says.
She proudly lists the features of her new latrine: a concrete and cement slab, a Satopan to keep the flies away, a wooden shelter structure, and a tiled roof. Outside the toilet, she even installed a homemade hand-washing facility.
With key sanitation influencers and the support of opinion leaders and district staff, Isoko y’Ubuzima rolled out initiatives for social behavior change and a strategy for creating demand at the community level.
"Before, we used to use grass to clean ourselves after using the toilet, but after sensitization, we learned about the use of toilet paper, other clean materials, or even water."
The strategy and initiatives included behavior change messages, sales and marketing on sanitation and hygiene products in community groups, household visits, and linking the community with district sanitation centers, showrooms, and financial mechanisms.
This mobilization effort reached over 44,000 people, of which 5,587 gained access to basic sanitation and hygiene services. So far, over 1,100 households constructed new toilets or brought the current ones up to standard.