Currently undergoing Tamale-based technical training, my group and I have been carted to different villages all around the Northern region to practice projects that we can potentially implement in our own communities. During the past couple weeks, I have painted a mural at a nutrition clinic, taught a health class at a primary school, and built a latrine (ironically with bricks and mortar during Passover). However, the most memorable and controversial activity we did was take one village’s community members on a “Walk of Shame.”
This walk is part of a behavior change method called Community-Led Total Sanitation. The idea behind this approach is to trigger communities to change their sanitation practices (particularly that of open defecation) by “igniting a sense of disgust and shame.” This walk involves bringing community members to sites of open defecation and grilling them on why they do this, where they think it goes, and how they think it effects their food and water.
Now, if you ask me, it’s one thing to open people’s eyes to proper health and sanitation through education and experience. It’s a whole other thing to come into a community that does not know or trust you, gather a large group of people who are more excited to see white people than anything else, show them how feces are entering their food and water, and then tell them you plan to go to other communities to spread the word that this village literally “eats shit.” And this is exactly what Peace Corps asked us to do. I am aware that the shame method can be effective, but I simply couldn’t and wouldn’t do that last part. Betraying the trust of people I am supposed to be helping is not the way I plan on going about things.
That day was a hard one for me, but the other activities we have been doing have been significantly more enjoyable. During mural making, my group painted a hand-washing scene while another group drew an animated condom warning against the transmission of HIV. The talking condom actually made quite a splash in the village, and while it wasn’t always good feedback, no press is bad press. While teaching at the school, I came across a child wearing a dress made out of American flag fabric with a huge picture of Obama on the front. And just for fun, we got to go to a sacred pond to see crocodiles! I think I fancied myself as somewhat of a Crocodile Hunter though, picking up it’s tail and pretending to ride on its back…Don’t worry, I only lost my left hand, which you aren’t really supposed to use in Ghana anyway.
So next time you hear from me I’ll be officially moved-in at site. Wish me luck!