In Rwamagana, children are agents of change for hygiene promotion

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An elder helping and teaching children how to wash hands with soap at the ECD centre. (Courtesy photos)

Emmelyne is four years old and attends the Early Childhood Development and Family (ECD&F) Centre in Ntunga Village in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province.

During class, Emmelyne learned that she must wash her hands with soap after using the toilet and before eating porridge. “Look how I wash my hands. Now I know it well. My mom also tells me to wash my hands after going back home,” says Emmelyne.

When Emmelyne comes home, her mother Angelique welcomes her and helps her wash her hands. Sometimes Emmelyne sings a song she learned at the centre. “I am happy to see her actively playing and enjoying her learning. She used to be a very shy little girl but not any longer. She has grown a lot,” says Angelique.

Emmelyne has two siblings and they all join her in washing their hands with soap at home.

“Emmelyne comes home  and shares what she learned in class. She has learned about the importance of hygiene, especially handwashing with soap, and now she teaches her little sister how to wash her hands. In our village, we only had one water point to share with nearby villages. I had to walk more than one hour to fetch water and still the quantity was not enough.

However, with the newly built water point in my own village, I only need to walk five minutes. I can bring enough water for everything: cooking, drinking, washing, and cleaning. I am happy that we have enough water to provide my children good hygiene at home,” says Angelique, posing in front of her latrine and handwashing facility together with Emmelyne.

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Emmelyne and her mother, Angelique together with her siblings pose in their yard which has a toilet and handwashing utensils.

Angelique is a member of the Community Hygiene Club (CHC) in her village and she participates eagerly in almost every session. “We learn a lot about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of handwashing with soap to prevent water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, the importance of food safety by storing in a cool place, and the importance of handling water safely. Now that I have enough water, I can wash my children’s clothes often and our hygiene is a lot better, and most importantly teach my children the importance of hygiene,” says Angelique.

With the presence of Community Hygiene Clubs in all different villages in the area, children have become agents of change, and good hygiene has become part of their lives. Today children, learn and share with their families what they are taught in school.

Emmelyne has inspired many other children in the village about the importance of washing hands, and exercising good hygienic ways.