Women in Central Sulawesi Keep Organizing as Change Agents for Improved Hygiene

CWS Indonesia | April 8, 2019

Juarni works in Sigi District as a Village Subfield Officer. Photo: CWS

Six months after the deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit Palu, thousands of people, like 42-year-old Juarni, continue working day in and day out to cope with displacement. When the late September 2018 disaster hit, Juarni was an active health post worker who loved her job. After the crisis’ early days, and as life settled into a new normal in the camp, Juarni instinctively noticed the unhealthy conditions in the camp she shared with hundreds of evacuees. In talking recently with a few CWS response team members, Juarni recalled, “Before CWS started delivering water and latrines were built, things were very unhealthy. We had to find water and places to defecate. Many children had diarrhea and other illness because they were drinking unsafe water, and families had let hygiene fall to the wayside”.

Things have changed for the better since CWS asked Juarni to join a group of health promotion volunteers. These volunteers work with camp residents to improve current hygienic practices. Though her new work is different from her health post assignment, Juarni told us how glad she is to know she can still help her community protect its health. To work in the camp setting, which is quite different from her village, Juarni joined others in a training before starting their health promotion work. During the training, she shared her experience and learned new ways to motivate people to live as hygienically as possible in the camp. All Juarni’s camp co-workers are women, which is common because women traditionally take care of family wellness. The challenge in the camps, as Juarni told CWS staff early on, is that people’s displacement to living in such inferior circumstances means the volunteers often must work hard to manage the camp’s collective sanitation and hygiene situation.

To help with this, Juarni and other volunteers visit the camps to find and help solve sanitation problems and talk to mothers about best practices to maintain hygiene. Juarni’s persistence and leadership is valued, in sharing her pride, she said, “I get so happy when I visit a camp for a second or third time and the mothers tell me stories about their successes, including that their families are now using the communal latrines and that their children are back to the habit of washing their hands before they eat.”

CWS continues to support Juarni and other health workers while they continue helping their neighbors stay healthy. In addition, CWS continues daily distribution of 62,000 gallons of water in 66 locations where about 13,400 people come to get clean water and information about making it safe for cooking and drinking. Other relief and recovery work includes more latrine-building and next-level transitional shelters.

For more information contact mkoeniger@cwsglobal.org

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