5.3.2 Strategies for changing attitudes
Existing attitudes are perpetuated from generation to generation for no other reason than people accept the beliefs of their ancestors without questioning them. Challenging these bad attitudes is difficult, and change may not happen overnight; it requires commitment and persistence. In combination, the following strategies could be employed to try to influence people and change their thinking.
To increase awareness, you need to have evidence to support the case that people are being excluded. This could be statistical evidence of the number of persons with disabilities of different kinds (i.e. data disaggregated by disability, sex and age), what factors contributed to their exclusion, and recommendations on how they can be included in the planning and decision-making processes that directly affect their lives. Evidence may also be available from an accessibility and safety audit. The output from the audit will provide details of the problems currently faced by persons with disabilities and how they might be resolved.
Existing attitudes may result from a lack of relevant knowledge or thoughtlessness so a key part of changing them is to make people more aware of the situation of excluded people and the problems they face. This applies to people with disabilities and other marginalised groups and includes challenging assumptions about gender roles. This is where evidence can be helpful to support the argument that exclusion is wrong and inclusive WASH is a priority. There are many different ways to try to raise people’s awareness.
For communities: Evidence like that identified above could be presented to community meetings and included in the training of WASHCOs, CLTSH committees and WASH clubs. In the meeting, members of the local WASH Team (or members of the wider cabinet) could facilitate the discussion to help communities realise that persons with disabilities need safe WASH services for their day-to-day lives but face huge problems in accessing the facilities. It is also important for people with disabilities to be present at community meetings so they are more visible and can share their experiences with their fellow community members. However, they may need support to make sure they are able to be heard, and to make sure others listen to them.
To tackle people’s long-held beliefs about disability you could engage them in activities to convince them there is no link between disability and sin. For example, a woreda WASH Team, with the support of development partners, could identify a family that includes someone with a disability, provide incentives to encourage their participation and educate them that the cause of the disability is not the result of the wrath of God but something that could happen to anyone. Involving religious leaders in this process is of paramount importance.
For planners and decision makers: Studies to assess inclusion in WASH could be commissioned by planners to inform their decisions or can be conducted by development partners.
At public events: Major sector events such as the Multi-Stakeholder Forum and Global Handwashing Day can be used to promote the importance of inclusion in WASH planning and decision-making processes. Individual people with disabilities could be asked to give a speech where they could pass their messages to the wider audience.
Collaboration and partnership
All of the strategies described above are likely to be more successful if conducted in collaboration, either with individual people with disabilities, self-help groups, Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs), women’s groups, or other organisations. This will ensure the real situation is understood including the problems faced in accessing WASH facilities and their associated risks, and how these affect daily lives. Partnering with like-minded individuals, groups and organisations will strengthen the effort to raise awareness and influence policies at national level, and change practices at lower levels.