In Tangut Reta’s village, ORDA has established a system to acknowledge households using the proper hygiene and sanitation practices we’ve taught them.
Through this new system, each household in the village is assigned a different color flag to represent their level of accomplishment. A red flag signifies the highest achievement, while green is mid-level and white is the lowest level.
Regional Health Extension workers assess households and recommend a flag color based on the following criteria:
- Does the household have pit latrines?
- Do they have a fuel-saving stove? (Blows smoke and fumes away from the living area, uses less wood and reduces cooking time by having more than one burner.)
- Do they practice proper hand-washing?
- Do they properly dispose of their solid waste?
- Is livestock separated from the living area?
Once the flag recommendation is made, the community votes to approve the color and a flag is provided by ORDA. The flag is then posted high outside of each home where all the community members can see it. This plays upon Ethiopians’ sense of pride and shame, but as Ethiopians ourselves we recognize that it’s an effective way to change unhealthy practices.
Tangut, a 35 year old mother with seven children, originally had a white flag, but she has worked very hard to increase her standing in the community and earn a red flag (completely skipping the green flag!).
“ORDA taught us good sanitation and hygiene,” Tangut says. “I got this flag because I did what I was supposed to do—I built a toilet area. I made a disposal area. I keep my house clean and I built a fuel-saving stove that blows smoke away from us.”
Tangut was also nominated by her village to be a Hygiene and Sanitation Educator.
“I went to the community and said, ‘let’s work together and clean our surroundings’,” says Tangut. “Now I go to other households and teach them about pit latrines and fuel-saving stoves. Plus, once or twice a week I teach the community at coffee ceremonies.”
Tangut’s daughter, 13-year old Balamlay, is proud of her mother’s work and is getting involved, too. “I like that our surroundings are clean and free from dirt,” she said. “I want to be healthy.”
When asked if improving hygiene and sanitation has impacted her life, Balamlay responded, “There’s a big change. For example, there is no cough now. I do not cough like I used to.”
Tangut is so proud of her red flag that she didn’t want to hang it outside. Instead, she still flew the white flag. “I want to save the red flag,” she said with a grin. “I don’t want it to get ruined. Everyone knows I earned a red flag, though.”
But by the time we left her home, she and her son had proudly hung up the family’s well-deserved red flag.