From WASH clubs to total sanitation - School sanitation story from Pakistan

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Country: Pakistan

PAKISTAN: from WASH clubs to total sanitation

Basic data:

PATS-approach – Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation, with the key involvement of schools in the process. Teachers, parents and students were mobilised and assisted in establishing WASH clubs at each school. These clubs are triggering WASH messages into the surroundings of the schools and the communities where the students live in.

The project and the experiences:

"You shall be happy if you can partner with us to overcome WASH challenges in these schools and their surrounding villages". This warm welcome to Union Council Fatah Pur, Pakistan, characterizes the acceptance of a program that World Relief Germany indeed has the privilege to partner in. The program uses the PATS-approach – Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation, which has been successfully rolled out in Pakistan by other humanitarian actors before. While the focus is on whole Union Councils, the program recognizes the importance of schools and school students as agents of change.

Fatah Pur is located in South Punjab, Pakistan, in the district Rajanpur, where PATS is rolled out. The district with a size of 12,000 km² is located at the western banks of river Indus. Two thirds of the total population does not have access to sanitation, hence open defecation is a significant health hazard.

Key to achieving its overarching goals is the involvement of schools. In the six Union Councils of district Rajanpur that were initially targeted, there are 200 schools. Teachers, parents and students were mobilised and assisted in establishing WASH clubs at each school. A club consists of 10 to 15 active student members and a teacher for coordination. These clubs are triggering WASH messages into the surroundings of the schools and the communities where the students live in. Their aim is to raise awareness on safe drinking water, improved sanitation and hygiene practices. At best the WASH clubs will also bring about behaviour change among the students and their families.

Initially, the project team trained teachers at the targeted schools to raise awareness on WASH issues and to provide tools for starting and coordinating WASH clubs. The teachers were encouraged by project staff to start sensitization campaigns at their schools and identified students to become active members of the clubs. Occasions like World Toilet Day and Global Handwashing Day, with specific events held on these days, helped to engage the youth and raise awareness for WASH.

The WASH clubs are run in both boys and girls schools. After the clubs were set up, they began with internal discussions and trainings, in order to familiarize the group more in depth with WASH topics. PATS goes beyond traditional CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) approaches and takes a holistic view on sanitation, incl. waste disposal. The teaching material provided by the project also included topics that were commonly neglected: A local student member said, "Menstrual hygiene was never discussed in school and at home for cultural reasons, but this project cared to sensitize us also on menstrual hygiene to ensure that we live a healthy life with dignity.“

After this initial forming phase, the WASH clubs begin with activities in their school. They ensure availability of soap and MHM material (re-usable, locally available cloth) „to create an ideal environment, where youth can nurture ideas for change“, as a visitor of the project described. In addition to these ongoing tasks and keeping attention to WASH high, the clubs also organise special events inside their schools. This includes assessing sanitation facilities in the schools, proposing improvements (no-subsidy approach) and mobilizing people from the communities to implement the improvements, with the help of the project team.

The WASH clubs also reach out beyond their school by organizing „out-of-school“-events in their communities. Through these community events, the students get opportunities to share the acquired knowledge to a broader audience. The students raise awareness and mobilise people in the community for concrete action, e.g. building latrines for their own homes. Only for the poorest households, subsidies are given by the project. The project team coordinates and cooperates closely with the WASH clubs – and is happy to partner in overcoming WASH challenges in Rajanpur.

The PATS project in Pakistan clearly shows how WASH in schools can become an instrument for developing WASH in the whole region, leading to open defecation free villages. Students that embraced the importance of WASH do not only bring positive change to their own generation, but also have the ability to mobilise whole communities to work alongside of them – for the benefit of all.

The key lessons of the story: Schools, particularly students are key agents of change for communities to achieve an open-defecation free environment.

Contribution to the SuSanA sustainability criteria

Health and Hygiene: PATS students get a holistic understanding of sanitation and its importance for health. They are able to develop ideas for concrete actions to improve the WASH situation.

Environment and natural resources: Community sensitising on the value of open-defecation free environment and on the fertilizing effects of human waste protects water sources and conserves mineral resources.

Technology and operation: Students learn about the whole sanitation system, assess status quo at their school and discuss/organize O&M, whilst mobilizing fellow students to improve the system.

Socio-cultural and institutional aspects: The principles of PATS, that builds on and puts CLTS into a holistic approach within the Pakistani context, are adapted to make it more specific on the conditions South Punjabi students live in. Communities, families and schools with improved sanitation facilities share their hygiene practices more confidently and boldly than those without.

Project details

Type of project: Case Pakistan – from WASH clubs to total sanitation

Project period: Sept 2014 – Sept 2015

Start of operation: Rajanpur: August 2010 (in Pakistan: August 2000)

Project scale: Six Union councils, with schools as agents of change

Based on the Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS), World Relief Germany in partnership with UNICEF rolled out a project with 200 schools. Teachers and students were trained and guided to form WASH clubs that take action to improve the situation in regards to WASH - not only in their schools, but also in their communities. The project is an example that demonstrates how school students can become agents of change in a holistic program that is adapted to the local cultural and institutional context.

The christian humanitarian organization,World Relief helps lead the fight to alleviate poverty and injustice and to promote peace. They work alongside of communities and equip them with the skills and knowledge to improve their situation themselves.


Ashar Dean

World Relief Germany (formerly PartnerAid)

Stephan Kraemer

World Relief Germany (formerly PartnerAid)

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