Count Me In: partnering with the arts to get the message out about inclusive WASH
When WaterAid began work in Cambodia in 2014, the Royal Government of Cambodia requested technical support on how to make WASH services accessible to everyone. Over the next year, we invested considerable resources, working with the Ministry of Rural Development to create ‘National Guidelines on Inclusive WASH for People with a Disability and Older People’.
When WaterAid began work in Cambodia in 2014, the Royal Government of Cambodia requested technical support on how to make WASH services accessible to everyone.
Over the next year, we invested considerable resources, working with the Ministry of Rural Development to create ‘National Guidelines on Inclusive WASH for People with a Disability and Older People’. The guidelines are an excellent document, with tools and tips that programme implementers can use to make their WASH programmes inclusive of and accessible to everyone in a community.
While we were preparing these guidelines, we came to learn how many other inclusivity guidelines exist, and how infrequently these were used. We also noticed that many people don’t like to read long documents. So we decided to come up with creative ways to raise awareness of inclusive WASH and promote the key messages from the guidelines.
Shared visions and values around equity and inclusion
As WaterAid and Epic Arts got to know one another, we realised how much our organisations shared visions and values around equity and inclusion, and how to bring about change. So we set out on a partnership journey.
Together with a group of five young artists, we came up with the idea of developing a live performance and a series of short films for practitioners to watch on their smartphones. The creative process of working together as two organisations to clarify the messages and work out how to communicate them was rewarding, enriching and a lot of fun.
The five young performers from Epic Arts spent time with our team in the field, learning about WASH and the ways we conduct accessibility audits and barrier analysis. As all the performers have a physical impairment, they were able to draw on their own lived experiences of the barriers they face in accessing water and sanitation and the solutions they have found to overcome them.
When it was their turn, the artists had us doing improvisations and small dramas and working with them to develop the performance. At one point I remember acting as a cow pooing in a pond as others were collecting drinking water!
Count Me In
The final performance, Count Me In, is available in full and as a series of separate scenes . It has been performed across Cambodia over the past six months, and the mix of comedy and emotion has had a powerful effect on audiences. I have been working on inclusive WASH issues for over ten years, and this is the best way I have found of communicating these issues – as this short evaluation film shows.
We plan to keep touring Count Me In and performing to influential audiences throughout 2016.
For the instructional short films, Epic Arts teamed up with an award-winning filmmaker to make a series of four animated films. Each film highlights a key message or tool from the guidelines: how to work in partnership with a disabled persons’ organisation; how to identify people with a disability in the community; how to do a barrier analysis; and how to conduct an accessibility and safety audit.
For organisations starting out on their journey to make a programme inclusive, these four steps are practical and doable.
WaterAid and Epic Arts are now planning out the next stage in our partnership. We are thinking of ways to build the skills and confidence of graduates from the Epic Arts Inclusive Arts Program to be advocates for WASH, and we have more fun ideas for great content in store. Look out for us around World Toilet Day in November!