Exploring the Contributions of Village "WASH" Committees in Achieving "WASH" Program Objectives and the Empowerment of Rural Women in Bangladesh
Razaul Karim's research practicum focuses on the study of the contribution of Village Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Committees to achieve the WASH program objectives and to empowering the rural women of Bangladesh. Village Wash Committees address existing water and sanitation situations of their village and identify issues that require urgent action. VWCs focus on reaching the poor, providing hygiene education to the entire population, and focusing on women's participation in decision-making. Karim measured women's empowerment by using seven indicators: voluntary efforts and active participation, ability to influence major decision-making, expression of voice, knowledge and skills, freedom of mobility, control over resources, and self image, sense of self-confidence, and leadership roles. Using questionnaires, interviews, observations, focus group discussions and document analysis, Karim found that VWCs, cluster meetings, and informal interactions have helped women to improve their social capital and sense of empowerment. Women were found to be more engaged during VWC meetings and capable of making more decisions at home. In addition, women were also found to have more ability to interact with elected officials, and waterborne diseases decreased in result to VWCs. Overall, Karim concluded that knowledge and awareness-building interventions such as the Village Wash Committees, require community participation in order to procure the most positive, effective results.