The Football for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (F4WASH) programme was launched on World Water Day 2012 (22 March) with a unique focus on football-based behaviour change and sustainability. F4WASH was a public-private partnership between the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dutch Royal Football Association (KNVB), UNICEF Kenya, UNICEF Ghana, Aqua for All, Akvo Foundation and Vitens Evides International. The programme was implemented in two phases from 2012 until 2019.
The programme’s approach is reflected in its ‘Theory of Change’, which integrates football & WASH among its indicators and proposed interventions.
An effective, sustainable approach
The programme’s approach including football-based life skill education proved effective in achieving sustainable hygiene behaviour in school children and their families. A proof-of-concept study done by Kantar Public Kenya between 2017 and 2020 showed that F4WASH schools were outperforming control group schools on health, hygiene behaviour, community outreach, and menstrual hygiene management indicators. These findings indicated that the F4WASH approach added value by bridging the gap between hygiene education and behaviour change. This led to improved health, improved school performance and increased attendance, especially for girls.
Clean and safe WASH facilities
Through the F4WASH programme, schools got safe drinking water, clean toilets, handwashing facilities for girls and boys and improved or new football facilities and materials. Local artisans and construction materials were employed to build the facilities. These WASH facilities complied with the national and international regulations and standards and are built to withstand high use and are low-maintenance.
F4WASH gave special attention to ensuring girls’ participation in life skills education and football activities. The programme provided suitable facilities for adolescent girls like changing rooms, so they can feel safe when using the school facilities. These separate facilities contributed to reducing girls’ absenteeism during their menstruation significantly. During the education sessions, topics like taboos on menstrual hygiene, girls’ confidence, and school attendance were discussed.
Learning and fun
When learning is fun and active, it also becomes easier. The fun factor in learning and the discipline of sports were used by F4WASH to teach hygiene habits and healthier practices. Through life skills education, football training and school health clubs, children played practised and learned at the same time.
Inspiring role models
Role models are powerful motivators of behaviour change. When coaches demonstrated healthy hygiene behaviour, pupils were keen on following their good example. F4WASH involved national football stars like the Black Queens from Ghana or former players of the Dutch and Kenyan Soccer National Teams as role models. Inspired by them, children have become change champions by starting school health clubs and inspiring their peers.
The F4WASH programme aimed at ensuring sustainability by providing:
- Capacity building of school teachers, school management, local entrepreneurs and pupils to operate and maintain WASH facilities.
- Local ownership. F4WASH lobbied regional and national governments to become drivers of access to WASH in schools. The importance of safe water, sanitation and good hygiene must be embedded in the school’s curriculum or government policy to enable regional and national scale-up. Mainstreaming this approach would make it more cost-efficient and effective.
- Sustainable financial models. F4WASH encouraged developing income-generating models to cover operations and maintenance of WASH facilities and make them sustainable.
Involving the community proved to be a key success factor. A school is part of a community and without this community, proper behaviour and wash practices cannot be maintained at home. A full community approach meant that the community should be WASH and hygiene aware. Therefore, additional community WorldCoaches were trained to spread awareness on Wash and ensure sustainable attention on hygiene practices achieving ODF communities.
Other schools and teams were invited to participate in football tournaments which contributed to engaging the entire community. During these competitions, the F4WASH teams and coaches shared information on hygiene and the importance of safe water and sanitation in a festive way.
FAWASH was a public-private partnership of international donors and organizations and local stakeholders. This created greater outreach and more sustainable impact on the lives of the children.
At the national level, the programme was implemented by national public-private partnerships between football and WASH organisations, the private sector and governmental partners. At the local level, F4WASH worked with community organisations and leaders, entrepreneurs, local government bodies, parents and school management.