COWASH IV holds critical Core Planning Meeting for the last Ethiopian Fiscal Year of the project

The COWASH IV, a project focused on improving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) access in eight regions of Ethiopia, held its annual core planning meeting for the Ethiopian Fiscal Year (EFY) 2017 from April 23 to 24, 2024, in Arba Minch. This meeting served as the final planning session for COWASH IV, making it a critical juncture to solidify plans and address remaining tasks before this phase of the project concludes in EFY 2017.

Around 70 participants attended the workshop, including staff from all eight project regions’ Regional Support Units (RSUs), Regional Bureaus of Water (BoW), the Federal Technical Assistance Team (FTAT), representatives from the Ministry of Education (MoE), Embassy of Finland in Ethiopia (EoF) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA). Notably, Water Sector Advisor from MFA, Jukka Ilomäki, and Water and Agricultural Growth Advisor from EoF, Gezahegn Alemu, were present. The workshop’s primary objectives were to assess COWASH IV’s performance during EFY 2016 and to establish a concrete plan for EFY 2017.

Neil Chadder, COWASH IV’s Chief Technical Advisor, commenced the meeting by outlining recent developments and critical issues requiring attention within the upcoming year’s plan. Subsequently, each RSU presented progress reports covering the past nine months of EFY 2016. Following these presentations, discussions ensued on overcoming challenges, achieving targets, and outlining the path forward.

Lewam Abebe, School WASH Project Management Unit coordinator at Ministry of Education also presented on the Education Sector School WASH Program and the Ministry’s initiatives, further strengthening collaboration across sectors. Additionally, Paulos Basazenew, a COWASH IV Finance and Audit Support Consultant, provided briefings on internal audit, and Gezahegn Alemu, offered insights from the EoF’s perspective.

The FTAT led presentation and discussions on the planning template where data management and achieving established goals were central themes of these discussions. The final day centered on core planning, with FTAT members outlining the EFY 2017 planning focus areas for each region. Each RSU then convened for dedicated team-based planning sessions.

In addition to the workshop, Sinikka Antila, Ambassador of Finland to Ethiopia and African Union, held a fruitful side meeting with RSU team leaders, and representatives from the MoE and BoWs on the second day, highlighting the ongoing collaboration between COWASH IV and the Finnish government.

Valuable Inputs and Strengthened Collaboration

Participants highlighted the value of the workshop in facilitating collaboration, knowledge sharing, and thorough planning. The workshop provided clear explanations on the planning process, ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive approach that avoids any missed areas in the final plan, said Meaza Kebede Gender and Disability Inclusion Specialist at COWASH IV. Temesgen Buzuayehu, a CMP specialist from the Central Ethiopia RSU team, highlighted the valuable insights gained for planning in the last EFY of the COWASH IV. Similarly, Desalegn Kirose, RSU Team Leader from Tigray, appreciated the workshop’s role in enhancing planning and collaboration. “The workshop equipped us with valuable knowledge and facilitated thorough preparation for planning,” he said.

Emphasizing the importance of collaboration, Addisalem Anegesa, a sanitation, hygiene, and social behavioral change specialist from the Oromia RSU team, pointed out, “The workshop facilitated the participation of all COWASH IV teams from across the eight project regions. This forum significantly contributed to achieving the project’s goals by fostering experience sharing and knowledge exchange. “This collaborative approach lays a strong foundation for a successful EFY 2017, ensuring COWASH IV concludes with a strong performance and achieves its goals. Similarly, Gezahegn Alemu, highlighted the workshop’s role in fostering experience sharing and network building among regions. He further emphasized the value of in-person interaction in understanding project progress and embassy direction. This collaborative approach positions COWASH IV for a successful final EFY year, building on the project’s achievements in improving WASH access for rural communities in Ethiopia.

Overall, the COWASH IV EFY 2017 Core Planning Meeting proved to be a productive platform for solidifying plans, fostering collaboration, and ensuring a successful final year for the project.


Girls in Central Ethiopia Thrive with the COWASH IV Menstrual Hygiene Management Center

A simple solution is making a big difference for girls’ education in Central Ethiopia. In EFY 2015, the Community-Led Accelerated WASH (COWASH IV) project constructed a Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) center at Fofa General Secondary School, Central Ethiopia Region, which has a student body of 1,084 with 462 of them being girls. This four-room haven offers a resting room, bathroom, waiting area, and counseling rooms. Today, the project celebrates the MHM center’s remarkable success in empowering girls and promoting educational equity.

Prior to the MHM center’s construction, many girls faced a critical barrier to education – a lack of access to proper hygiene facilities during their menstrual cycles. This often resulted in missed classes due to pain, discomfort and embarrassment.

The MHM center provides a safe space equipped with essential supplies and privacy. This seemingly simple solution has a profound impact on students like Kalkidan Banteayehu, a 12th grader. “Before the MHM center, I missed classes due to period pain,” Kalkidan shares. “Now, I can attend school regularly and focus on my studies without worry.” Mekdes Degefu, a 10th grader, expresses similar gratitude. “Having the MHM center means I don’t have to go home to rest when I have my period. This facility is crucial for all schools.”

The impact extends beyond individual students. Dedicated teacher Zara Ali has witnessed a noticeable change in the classroom environment. “The MHM center has created a sense of relief and stability among our female students,” Zara explains. “They are more attentive and engaged in learning. I am incredibly grateful to COWASH IV for building this center. Their initiative to expand the MHM program to other schools is commendable.”

Meaza Kebede, gender and disability inclusion specialist at COWASH IV, praises the Fofa MHM center as an exemplary facility. It adheres strictly to the Ministry of Education’s design guidelines, ensuring a functional and accessible space. The center is always open to provide support to students, with a dedicated counselor readily available. Meaza also commends the school for creating a welcoming environment that encourages girls to utilize the facility. These combined efforts will undoubtedly contribute to achieving the program’s goals, she emphasized.

While initial use of the MHM center was a challenge due to cultural stigmas, Zara and a few brave students who used it from the beginning championed awareness creation. Now, these efforts along with the ongoing MHM awareness campaigns within the school, many girls are embracing the facility. During a visit to the MHM center in late March, Meaza Kebede was impressed by the girls’ comfort and enthusiasm in using the facility. This positive observation, Meaza noted, is a testament to the growing awareness surrounding menstrual hygiene management among the students.

COWASH IV’s commitment goes beyond Fofa. Since the program’s inception, the project has constructed 19 MHM centers across 16 project Woredas, following the design provided by the Ministry of Education. Aiming to further expand this initiative, COWASH IV is carrying out an assessment in different project regions.

The COWASH IV MHM program goes beyond just building centers. The initiative includes creating awareness through MHM training and reusable sanitary pad production workshops for teachers across project regions. Additionally, comic books and brochures on menstrual hygiene management have been distributed to schools.

The success of the Fofa MHM center serves as a powerful example of how addressing basic needs can significantly improve educational attainment for girls in Ethiopia.  By addressing menstrual hygiene needs and promoting menstrual health education, COWASH IV is empowering girls to stay in school and reach their full potential.

 

 

 



COWASH IV Explores Transforming WASH Saving and Loan Associations into Sustainable Sanitation Cooperatives

COWASH IV, a project committed to long-term WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) sustainability in rural Ethiopia, recently held discussions with key stakeholders to explore the potential of existing WASH Saving and Loan Associations (SLAs) evolving into Rural Savings and Credit Cooperatives (RWSCCs).

The field visit conducted in Yem Zone Central Ethiopia from 19-20 March 2024 focused on strengthening the established WASH SLAs. Previously, COWASH IV facilitated the establishment of five WASH SLAs in Wegencho Kebele at the end of EFY 2014. These groups, with a total of 152 member households, received essential training and successfully achieved their initial goal of constructing improved household latrines with functional handwashing facilities for all members.

 

Looking Towards Empowering Communities Through Financial Independence:

With the initial objective accomplished, COWASH IV and WASH SLA leaders are setting their sights on the future. Recent discussions involved Zonal and Woreda level officials, cooperative development experts, and WASH SLA leaders. The central theme of these discussions was the potential for WASH SLAs to transform into formal RWSCCs.

This transition holds significant promise, particularly for WASH SLA members who aspire to improve their WASH facilities, especially piped household water access, which is often hindered by financial constraints.

 

RWSCCs: A Promising Path to WASH Sustainability:

RWSCCs offer and foster financial services and independence for WASH SLA members, which empowers them to collectively save and pool resources for WASH infrastructure projects like household piped water systems. It will also enable them to manage their WASH needs autonomously, achieving long-term sustainability. Beyond empowering existing members, RWSCCs can facilitate access to credit for sanitation and hygiene improvements or even establish market-based sanitation businesses within the community.

This initiative has the potential to establish the first WASH RWSCCs in Ethiopia, serving as a model for other communities seeking WASH sustainability. The discussions highlighted the potential of this initiative and the willingness of local stakeholders to collaborate. COWASH IV FTAT plays a key role in facilitating these discussions and exploring the possibilities.

With 60 successful WASH SLAs established in Amhara, Central, Oromia, and Sidama regions, COWASH IV’s commitment to empowering communities is clear. Their focus on developing RWSCCs represents the next step toward long-term WASH sustainability. By supporting these initiatives, COWASH IV is paving the way for a future where communities can effectively manage their own WASH needs and build a healthier future.

 


From risky treks to peaceful mornings: How COWASH IV transformed the village of Edo Kebele

For six-grader Selam Baremo, sunrise wasn’t the start of a new day but the signal of a new round in her daily battle. Before reaching the first school bell, she had to conquer a treacherous hour-long hike up a steep and narrow road to the Edo Segele spring, her back burdened by a heavy water container on the return journey. Exhausted and late, Selam felt school was more like a chore than a chance to learn. Winter’s muddy paths added another layer of danger to her already arduous journey.

Nestled in Ethiopia’s Sidama region, Edo Kebele boasts breathtaking landscapes and abundant resources. Yet, access to clean water has remained a constant struggle. The remote location of the spring made it nearly impossible for elders, especially, to collect water. This placed the burden on children like Selam, impacting their education and health.

 

A fresh water spring closer to home

Everything changed eight months ago when the long-standing community-led water, sanitation and hygiene (COWASH) project partnered with the local community. Working hand-in-hand with them, the COWASH team constructed six community water points fed by piped water from the Edo Segele spring, bringing clean water almost to their doorstep. Selam’s trek was transformed into a five-minute stroll.

“Now I have time to study, attend my classes actively, and even play with friends!” beams Selam, her eyes sparkling with newfound freedom. “Before, I was always tired and late, missing out on so much.”

Her story echoes across Edo Kebele. Aberash Agena, a second-grader, recalls dragging herself back from the spring, too weary to learn. Meselech Yoseph, an elder, shares how her grandchildren missed school to fetch water, sacrificing playtime and education.

 

Beyond basic needs: unlocking potential and improving lives

The water points have not just delivered convenience, they have unlocked potential. Freed from the daily chore of gathering water, families now have enough water for their household tasks and cattle, fostering better hygiene and health. Aster Kelaqa, a young mother, can finally dedicate time to her children and community activities.

The impact extends beyond daily life. “Before the water points, mothers like me couldn’t afford to fetch water in the mornings,” says Aster. “No matter where we were, at the market or visiting friends, by midday we’d rush home, grab our containers, and hurry to the spring before darkness fell. That path was scary, even in daylight. We were all constantly worried and stressed, racing against the clock to get home and then back to the spring.”

Aster’s experience reflects that of many women in Edo Kebele. “Since COWASH IV built the water points right here, near our homes, everything has changed. We no longer worry about the time. We can fetch water whenever we need it, calmly and safely. This frees us up to do other things, from chores and markets to social events and activities. We don’t have to rush anymore and brings a sense of peace and calm to our lives.”

For Paulos Yonase, a father of six, the constant worry about his children venturing on the dangerous path is a distant memory. “Accidents were common,” he says. “My daughter fell and injured herself, requiring days in the hospital. Now, we can all breathe easier, knowing our families are safe because they no longer take that dangerous path.”

More than just clean water and peace of mind, the COWASH project has led to a significant decrease in waterborne diseases, bringing immense relief and improved health. Mathiwose Buchere, a WASH committee member, proudly shares, “since the water points were built, we’ve seen a remarkable drop in illness, especially among children. Parents no longer have to fear their kids getting sick from contaminated water.”

The transformation in Edo Kebele extends beyond the presence of water points. Recognising the importance of community ownership and sustainability, COWASH IV partnered with the local WASH committee to establish a robust management system. Two local artisans from each kebele (ward) received comprehensive training, equipping them with the skills to maintain the water points. This ensures any minor repairs or maintenance needs are addressed promptly and efficiently.

For larger issues beyond the artisans’ expertise, the Wondo Genet woreda (district) steps in to provide support. This collaborative approach ensures the water points remain functional and accessible for the long term, empowering the community to take charge of their own water security. This commitment to community ownership is a cornerstone of COWASH IV’s approach.

 

Far reaching results

COWASH IV’s impact extends far beyond this one community in Wondo Genet. From July 2022 to June 2023, the project constructed 17 new community water schemes and rehabilitated two existing points, bringing clean water to 7,621 people in the woreda. Additionally, COWASH IV has constructed water supply points and improved latrines in four schools and a health post over the same period of time. These facilities in schools alone have directly benefited 7,016 students, teachers and staff. The project also constructed one menstrual hygiene management facility in one Wondo Genet public school.

Along with infrastructure, the NIRAS-implemented COWASH IV project is raising awareness and facilitating savings groups to empower communities to build better sanitation facilities at home. Furthermore, the team’s commitment extends to capacity building. To date, 501 individuals have received training, including WASH committee members, woreda and kebele level experts. This empowers communities to manage their water resources effectively and maintain the water points themselves, ensuring sustainability.

Edo Kebele’s story is a testament to the transformative power of access to clean water. COWASH IV, in partnership with communities like Edo Kebele, is rewriting narratives, replacing struggles with dreams within reach.


Finnish Delegation Visits COWASH IV Project Sites in Sidama Region

A high-level delegation from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Embassy of Finland in Ethiopia visited COWASH IV project sites in Sidama on February 9-10, 2024. The delegation included the Ambassador of Finland to Ethiopia, Mrs. Sinikka Antila, Deputy Director General for the Department for Africa and the Middle East, Mrs. Helena Airaksinen, Director for the Unit of the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa, Mr. Jukka Pajarinen and Senior Adviser, Development Policy, Mr. Tomi Särkioja. The visit aimed to assess the project’s impact on rural communities facing WASH challenges.

The delegation visited two project Woredas in Sidama, Wondo-Genet and Gorche. The sites included water points constructed through rural pipe schemes from a spring source, spring with collection chamber, finalized and ongoing construction of institutional WASH facilities at two primary schools and a health post.

The visiting delegation also engaged in open discussions with community members and WASH committee representatives responsible for managing the water points. Meeting the project’s supporters was a highlight for the community who expressed their gratitude and joy. Especially during discussion with the Edo Kebele community members the community expressed gratitude for Finland’s as well as COWASH IV’s Federal, Regional and Woreda level partners’ support, highlighting how easier access to safe water has significantly improved their quality of life.

Mr. Tomi Särkioja, expressed his delight in meeting the communities impacted by COWASH IV and hearing how they feel about the contribution of the project to their lives. He also commended the close and collaborative work between the COWASH IV Federal Technical Assistance Team, Regional Support Unit and Woreda teams.

Ato Letta Etamo, team leader of the COWASH IV Sidama Regional Support Unit, welcomed the delegation’s visit and highlighted its value in providing them with firsthand experience of the project’s activities.

 

Transforming lives through clean water access:

Prior to the COWASH IV project, accessing clean water was a daily struggle for the community in Edo Kebele. The only source, Edo Segele spring, was located in a challenging terrain and required a grueling hour-long trek. This burden often fell on young women, forcing them to wake up at dawn and embark on this difficult journey. They often missed school or faced difficulty concentrating in class due to exhaustion from carrying limited amounts of water back home. The arduous trek meant families received only small quantities leading to constant scarcity. Six months ago this reality changed significantly when COWASH IV constructed six new water points from the spring.

Mrs. Helena Airaksinen observed that while communities possessed abundant resources, the sole obstacle was access to safe water. She expressed her delight that COWASH IV’s collaboration with the communities had successfully bridged this gap.

 

Community ownership:

The delegation expressed particular admiration for the strong sense of community ownership and participation evident in the COWASH IV project. They recognized this active involvement as a crucial factor in ensuring the project’s long-term success. Community members themselves contributed significantly through labor and in-kind donations. The challenging road access meant they even carried construction materials to the site themselves.

Mrs. Helena Airaksinen, with her extensive experience in Ethiopia, remarked on the project’s effectiveness particularly in helping previously hard-to-reach rural communities. She was especially impressed by the community’s ownership, not only participating in construction but also taking responsibility for maintenance. Mrs. Helena Airaksinen emphasized that this commitment is vital for the project’s long-term sustainability.

Mr. Jukka Pajarinen also noted the impressive level of community engagement, which he recognized as crucial for the project’s long-term success. While he had previously heard and read about COWASH IV’s work, this visit marked his first opportunity to witness firsthand both the region and the project’s activities on the ground.

Ambassador Sinikka Antila applauded the community’s involvement in the project, emphasized that community-based management appears to be the most effective approach for such initiatives.

 

Beyond water:

The project’s benefits extend far beyond providing clean water. By eliminating the hour-long trek for water, young girls now have more time to attend school, furthering their education and opportunities. Additionally, improved sanitation facilities contribute to overall community health and well-being.

Mr. Jukka Pajarinen emphasized the project’s broader impact. “COWASH IV goes beyond providing clean water. It empowers girls, improves overall health, and unlocks opportunities for communities.” Jukka Pajarinen further commended the effective collaboration between Finland, Ethiopia, and local communities. He also applauded the communities’ knowledge and dedication, stating they provide a strong foundation for the project’s continued success.

The delegation’s visit underscores the commitment of Finland and its partners to improving lives and livelihoods in rural Ethiopia. The success of COWASH IV serves as a model for community-driven development, demonstrating the power of collaboration in tackling water scarcity and its associated challenges.

 

 

 

 


COWASH IV Empowers Team with Gender and Disability Analysis and Mainstreaming Training

COWASH IV, a project dedicated to improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in rural Ethiopia, recently took a significant step towards inclusive development by providing  comprehensive training on gender and disability mainstreaming and analysis to its team members.

Led by the Africa School of Project Management, the training took place from January 22-25 in Nairobi, Kenya. The four-day program equipped seven specialists from COWASH IV’s federal technical assistance team and project regions with crucial knowledge and skills to champion inclusivity in their work.

Imagine WASH services designed with an understanding of gender dynamics, ensuring equal access for women and girls. This was brought to life through the training’s deep dive into gender mainstreaming, providing participants with practical approaches to integrate gender considerations into project planning, implementation, and monitoring. They learned to navigate the nuances of local contexts, ensuring no one is left behind in the quest for WASH improvements.

But inclusivity extends beyond gender. The training honed participants’ skills in analyzing the specific needs and challenges faced by people with disabilities. Equipped with frameworks for in-depth gender analysis, they can now tailor interventions that leave no one behind, ensuring WASH services are truly accessible and impactful for all.

The training also empowered participants to champion the rights and needs of women and people with disabilities within communities and at institutional levels. They learned to amplify voices, build awareness and advocate for inclusive policies that ensure everyone has a say and equitable access to WASH resources.

Melkamu Gemeda, a Capacity Building Specialist from Benishangul-Gumuz, remarked, “this training equipped us with crucial tools like gender analysis matrices, invaluable for our work with rural communities. We can now design WASH services that truly meet everyone’s needs.”

Berhan Woldegebriel, a Gender and Disability Inclusion Specialist, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the training’s significance for regional teams. “It’s a game-changer for our work,” she stated, “and must continue for the remaining staff to ensure everyone has the expertise to champion inclusivity.”

Beyond the classroom, the program fostered a spirit of collaboration through activities like a visit to Nairobi National Park. This holistic approach reflects COWASH IV’s dedication to building capacity across its entire staff, ensuring everyone has the tools and knowledge required to create a future where everyone thrives, regardless of gender, disability, or any other factor.

This training marks the first overseas program provided by COWASH IV in 2024, with four more planned in various project focus areas throughout the coming months. This continued investment in staff development demonstrates COWASH IV’s unwavering commitment to building an inclusive future where everyone in Ethiopia has access to life-changing WASH services.

 

 


Building a Supportive Environment: COWASH IV Concludes Menstrual Hygiene Management Training in Sidama

COWASH IV, in collaboration with the Sidama Bureau of Education, successfully conducted a four-day menstrual hygiene management (MHM) training in Yirgalem City from December 12th to 15th, 2023. This comprehensive program equipped 30 participants, including school directors, teachers, health workers, and experts for woreda and regional bureaus, with essential skills to create a more supportive environment for girls and women in the region.

The training, led by COWASH IV national consultant Alehubel Alemaw, tackled crucial topics like life skills development, dispelling myths and taboos surrounding menstruation, and practical sessions on designing and producing reusable sanitary pads. This knowledge empowers participants to address the challenges faced by girls and women during their menstrual cycle, fostering a more open and understanding environment.

Participants gained valuable skills in producing affordable and hygienic reusable menstrual products, promoting self-reliance and economic opportunities. This knowledge, particularly for teachers and health extension workers, enables them to cascade their learnings within their communities, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

Meheret Philipose, a passionate health worker from Wondo Genet woreda, expressed her eagerness to share her newfound knowledge with mothers during her house visits, making menstrual hygiene accessible to all. Similarly, Hamaro Hamiso, a visionary secondary school director from Chirone Woreda, plans to train students and establish pad production in his school, ensuring girls’ well-being and uninterrupted education.

MHM education is crucial for achieving gender equality and promoting overall well-being. COWASH IV’s impactful program is paving the way for a future where menstrual health is not a barrier, but a source of empowerment for women and girls in Ethiopia.

COWASH IV works in five woredas across Sidama Region, actively focusing on MHM initiatives in Wondogenet, Arbegona, and Chirone. Through collaborative efforts with the regional government, COWASH IV provides MHM awareness creation, sanitary pad production training, and construction of MHM facilities in schools within these woredas, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to creating lasting change.

 

 

 


COWASH IV First Regional Support Unit Knowledge Sharing Workshop Held in Hawassa

COWASH IV held its first knowledge sharing workshop from November 6 to 9 in Hawassa, Ethiopia. The workshop brought together around 50 participants, including COWASH federal technical assistance team (FTAT) and Regional Support Units (RSU) staff, as well as representatives from the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance, the Embassy of Finland in Ethiopia, Visionfund Microfinance Institution and other stakeholders.Read more


COWASH IV Provides on-the-Job Training to Small-Scale Microfinance Enterprises in Sidama Region

The COWASH IV Federal Technical Assistance Team (FTAT) last week provided on-the-job training to two small-scale microfinance enterprises engaged in providing sanitation and hygiene products through market-based sanitation centers in Arbegona and Chirone Woredas of the Sidama region. The market-based sanitation centers were established by COWASH in collaboration with the project Woreda offices of Health, Water and Job, Skill and Small Micro Finance Enterprise Development.Read more


COWASH IV provided a four-day Training of Trainers Workshop in Tarcha town in South West Ethiopia People’s Region.

The Community-led Accelerated WASH Project, Phase IV (COWASH IV) provided a four-day training of  trainers (TOT) workshop in Tarcha town in South West Ethiopia People’s Regional State from October 2 to 5, 2023. The training aimed to build the skills of 22 trainers on gender and disability inclusion, women leadership in WASHCO management, WASH saving and loan association establishment for improved household latrine construction.Read more