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close this bookSpecial Public Works Programmes - SPWP - Community Water Supply - A Community Participation Training Element for SPWP User Beneficiaries (ILO - UNDP, 1987, 100 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPREFACE
View the documentINTRODUCTION
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 1: What an Improved Water System Can Mean to Your Community
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 2: The Relationship of Water, Sanitation and Disease - Faecal-Oral Transmission
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 3: The Relationship of Water, Sanitation and Disease - Water-Washed and Water-Site-Related Disease
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 4: Breaking the Chain of Transmission - Rules of Communal and Personal Hygiene
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 5: How Does the Water Get There?
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 6: Wells
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 7: Springs
Open this folder and view contentsSESSION 8: Some Responsibilities of a Water Committee


1. Why Your Work Is Important

An improved water system carries with it the promise of improved health. Unfortunately, that promise is not always kept. Plenty of clean water may improve the health of the water users - or it may not. Providing knowledge about HOW to protect and use the water is as important as providing the water itself.

People must understand that improved health requires personal community sanitation as well as clean and plentiful water.


· Community support for the water system is essential to its proper functioning and to the improved health of the people.

· Community education is essential for community support.

· YOU can be an essential part of community education.

You, as a Discussion Leader, have the opportunity to teach community members HOW to use the new water system properly. You may be the key to their good health.

You will share the information in this User-Education Manual with the people in the community. You will help them understand facts about the water supply system. You will help give them an understanding of the close relationship of water, sanitation and health. Perhaps most important, you will encourage them to use their knowledge and understanding to form new habits of water use and protection.

2. Who Should Receive the Water/Sanitation/Health Message?

As a Discussion Leader, your goal is to take the water/sanitation/health message to the community. It would be very time-consuming to talk individually to each adult in the area, so you will have to organise meetings. A discussion group should have from 7 to 15 participants.

In order to get the message to more people, you may decide to have several groups.

Members of the Discussion Groups should be people who are interested in the new water system. Encourage the participation of influential community leaders who will spread the message to other people after the group meetings. Try to include the members of the water committee, health workers, teachers and representatives of all organisations. Do not forget to include women. They should be concerned and knowledgeable about water protection and use. In many cases they will be the most frequent direct users of the community’s water supply.

Selection of Discussion Group members will depend on political, cultural and social factors. Ask advice from community leaders before inviting people to join the Discussion Group. Remember that you want to establish a good working relationship with the entire community.

3. When Should Community Training Be Organised?

Community training can be carried out at various stages in the project: before construction, during construction and after construction. It is best to start user education before construction has begun to make sure that members of the community are involved in selecting the project and that they know in advance what to expect once the project has been completed and been put in use.

However, user education is an ongoing process, not a one-time “course” or training event. Guided discussions should be carried out as work progresses to reinforce learning and to clearly identify and fix responsibilities for operation and maintenance of the scheme.

4. When Should the Discussion Group Meet?

The information in this manual is divided into 8 learning/discussion sessions. In most communities you will only use 7 of them (e.g. you will not use Session 7, Springs, if the community has only wells). In the event your community water supply is neither a well nor a spring, you should omit sessions 6 (wells) and 7 (springs) and organise a separate training session to introduce the specific kind of water supply found in your community. Decide with the group members if they are willing to meet once a week for 7 weeks or whether they would prefer to meet more often. Evenings will usually be most convenient for farmers and others employed in daytime Jobs. One hour per session may be enough for some groups. Others may wish or need to have longer discussions.

If possible, start the discussion sessions as soon as construction (or preferably planning) of the system begins. At this time, people’s interest and enthusiasm will be high.

5. What is in the User-Education Manual?

The white pages of each session contain written material for the group members which should either be read aloud at the beginning of the session or distributed as handouts for the participants to read themselves. This material consists of:

1) a reading section, and
2) a Discussion Opportunity section.

In the first section, the group members learn certain facts about the new water system and its use and protection. In the second section, questions are asked.

In this section, the general facts of the reading section are applied to the particular community situation.

The written material for the group members (white pages) is preceded by a Discussion Leader’s Guide for each session (green pages). In it you will find hints to help you guide each learning/discussion session. The objectives of each session are listed, special teaching techniques offered, and suggested answers to the discussion questions given.

6. How Should I Use This Manual?

If you are a new discussion leader, you may think of teaching as “telling people things that they should remember”. This is called lecturing. IT IS NOT HOW YOU SHOULD USE THIS MANUAL!

When people only HEAR something, they often forget.
When people DO something, they remember.

In this Manual, the DOING is the discussion - talking about the new information and deciding how the new information can affect their village. It is very important that you do not just lecture to these adults. You must allow and encourage them to discuss the facts presented in the first section of each learning/discussion session.


· Your goal is not just to give new knowledge.

· Your goal is to give new knowledge that will help people change their ATTITUDE toward water/sanitation/health and then change their BEHAVIOUR toward water/sanitation/health.

Always read and study the session material and the Discussion Leader’s Guide before the group meeting. Be sure that you understand the Session Objectives (they are stated at the beginning of the Discussion Leader’s Guide). The Objectives tell you what the group members should be able to do at the end of the session. You will know that the meeting has been successful if they can do what the objectives have stated.

7. Preparation for Each Session

Good teaching requires good preparation. A Discussion Leader should know 1) the learning material (i.e. the facts) in each session, and 2) the social, cultural, religious and political aspects of the community.

To know the learning material (the facts) requires that you carefully study each session. If you want to know more about the subject, discuss it with your supervisor, a medical official or other knowledgeable persons.

After reading the session material, decide if the lesson is appropriate for your group members. If everyone in the community already uses pit latrines, for example, you will not need to spend much time with that subject. If, for another example, there is a high rate of Guinea Worm infestation in the community, you should add more information and give more time to that subject.

Preparation before each group meeting is necessary to give you time to prepare or obtain pictures, posters, extra reading materials or guest speakers. For some groups you may not need any of these “extras”. For other groups, pictures may be necessary for clear explanations. Plan each session early enough so you have time to get the “extras” that will help you be a good Discussion Leader.

Preparation also demands studying the community. You must be familiar with the place and the people where you are working. You need to know something about the water system - its source, its design, its construction. Even more important is your knowledge of the people of the community - their beliefs, attitudes, local habits, organisations, etc. All of these may have some bearing on the subject matter of the session and you must understand them in order to effectively lead the discussion.

8. Teaching Hints (Reading Section and Discussion Opportunity Section)

Section 1, Reading

If the members of your group read well, you may ask them to read the session material before they come to the group meeting. This initial reading will given them an idea of what is to be discussed but it will probably NOT teach them. You must do the teaching.

Begin each session (whether the members can read or not) by going over the material. Talk about the new information; review old information. You may want to read aloud. You may want to translate words. You will probably want to use a chalkboard or flipchart (large sheets of paper to write on that can be displayed where everyone can see) to make simple drawings and write difficult words.

Do not go on to the Discussion Opportunity Section until the group members understand the information in the Reading Section. For some groups and some sessions, the information in the Reading Section will be understood quickly and most of the session will be spent on the Discussion Opportunity. In other groups, you may spend the majority of your time teaching the information in the Reading Section.

Section 2, Discussion Opportunity

One important job of a Discussion Leader is to make the group members feel comfortable. They will not speak out in the discussion if they are afraid. They may stop coming to the meetings altogether if you make them feel foolish or childish. You must be friendly and interested in their ideas. You are not a judge. Your job is to present new information and help the group members understand and apply it.

The questions in the Discussion Opportunity are not a test. Often there is no right or wrong answer. The questions provide an opportunity for the group members to think about the relation of water/sanitation/health in their village. It gives them the chance to voice their opinions.

The discussion is the time for group members to talk. It is NOT the time for you to talk. Your job is to:

a) keep the discussion going by asking open questions;
b) guide the discussion;
c) listen carefully;
d) reinforce important points;
e) summarise occasionally.

a) use open questions

Open questions are questions which ask a person to talk about his thoughts or to give information.

A closed question allows a person to give a very short answer. Look at the following examples.


1. Tell me about the connection between water and mosquitos.
2. What do you think could happen if a pit latrine is built too close to our water supply?


1. Can mosquitos be dangerous?
2. Should pit latrines be built close to a water supply?


· Closed questions stop discussions.

· Open questions keep discussions going.

· You should phrase questions in such a way that you ask people to give opinions or information.

· Ask open questions!

b) guide the discussion

Sometimes in a discussion, everyone wants to speak at the same time. No one listens to his neighbour. If this happens, you must insist that the group members listen to one another and speak one person at a time. If one person has been speaking for a long time, interrupt and remind him that others also have something to say.

You must also control the discussion to make sure that it stays on the topic. If the speakers begin to talk about other things, you should remind them of the discussion question and bring the conversation back to the original topic.

c) listen carefully

Give all your attention to each speaker. Listen carefully. Let him know that his ideas and opinions are important.

It is sometimes a good idea to briefly write down people’s suggestions or opinions while they are talking. Write them on the chalkboard or flipchart. Later those ideas can be used as an outline to summarise the discussion.

d) reinforce important points

When speakers give ideas or information that is important, you should acknowledge it. You can repeat the comments or use your own words to re-state the same idea. You can write the ideas on the chalkboard. You can also show that a speaker’s comments are important by your facial expression. An encouraging nod and smile of approval let people know that you agree with their ideas.

e) summarise occasionally

A discussion is not just a conversation. A discussion has a topic and a goal. To help remind the group members of the topic and the goal you should occasionally give a brief summary of the discussion. If the discussion is too long, do not wait until the end of it to summarise. Stop several times in the middle of the discussion to review the important points that have been made and to summarise the progress of the discussion.

9. Teaching Hints (Role-playing and Follow-up)

In Sessions 3 and 5 role-playing is suggested in the Discussion Opportunity.

Role-playing is a teaching technique in which people act as if they were someone else. They do not have a written script. They use their own words and act out a very short play. The Discussion Leader first explains the characters and the situation. He might say, for example:

“Joe, pretend you are the worried father of a sick baby who has diarrhoea. You are talking to your neighbour who explains that unclean water is probably the cause of the illness. You do not believe this.

“Yousouf, you act as the neighbour. Try to teach Joe about the transmission of disease.”

Role-playing is a useful teaching technique because it allows people to “try on” new opinions and knowledge while pretending to be someone else. It is a fact that after people have publicly stated an opinion, they are more firmly committed to it. Therefore, if you can create situations in which the group members can practise using their knowledge, and practise stating new opinions, you will be helping them to accept the new ideas.

Some people may not be comfortable doing role-plays. Do not force group members to act if they don’t want to. Those who do not want to act should watch and discuss the action of the characters after the role-play. The entire group can discuss and learn from the actions of only 2-3 participants in the role-play.

Two more things to remember about role-plays are:

1. Demonstrate a role-play before asking participants to do one of their own.
2. Most role-plays should last less than 5 minutes.


Your teaching job does not end when each learning/discussion session is ended. If you want the group participants to learn new knowledge and change their attitudes and behaviour, you must follow up the sessions.

Follow-up means that you keep teaching and keep talking and keep helping people change their behaviour as often as you can. When, for example, the group is meeting for Session 4, remind them of their ideas about Sessions 1, 2 and 3. When you see group members outside of the meeting time, ask them if they are practising newly learned rules of hygiene. Observe people’s habits. Be a good example yourself and remind others of good rules of hygiene if you see them breaking the rules.

Encourage group members to tell their friends and neighbours about their new knowledge. Help them spread the water/sanitation/health message. Share pictures, posters, books. Share your time so that the message is not only spread but also remembered.

Follow up to make sure that the time you have spent in preparing for and leading the discussions will not be wasted.