BARUNI, NCD, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Change can be powerful. And sometimes all it needs is one person with a burning desire and a receptive community to make positive things happen.
Dinah Gaudi, who works at Oil Search in Port Moresby, certainly has desire. But it was her great concern about the lack of sanitation that has been a particular challenge for decades in her husband’s village and current residence that drove her into action.
The end result was the implementation of a project to end decades of unsafe and unhygienic practices, and change lifestyles with four new septic toilets introduced into her community.
The toilets, opened for use in April this year, are used by twenty-eight households in the Rahava section of the Baruni community.
Maggie Gaudi, 65 years old, described it best: “For many, many years our women and girls have put themselves at considerable risk of sexual and physical abuse by using the bushes and sea to relieve themselves,” she said. “
In addition to safety and security issues, the lack of toilets created a public health hazard with an increased risk of disease from poor sanitation.
Dinah, from East New Britain, married Baruni man Pala Gaudi and spent a lot of time with her in-laws as she worked and lived in Port Moresby. When her family moved to reside in Baruni last year, Dinah realised the desperate need for improved sanitation in her part of the village.
She read about a small grants scheme, designed and managed by the Oil Search Foundation (OSF), as a tool to allow Oil Search employees to reach out to the communities they live in and drive change through women empowerment initiatives. She submitted an application, and received a small grant to build a toilet block in the village for the women and girls who have not had the comfort, privacy and safety of a proper toilet for decades.
The project may seem insignificant to others in terms of cost or magnitude, but to the women and children of this part of Baruni, small is big.
It is a powerful change that gives the women security, self-respect and self-worth.
Irene Gaudi, who teaches at the village primary school, described the introduction of toilets on children.
“When we change the mindset of our children, we will change our community,” says Irene. “It is also their right to have a healthy, hygienic upbringing, and this project will help give them that.”
The community showed how much improved sanitation meant to them by going that extra mile to match Dinah’s efforts. They contributed cash, made land available for the toilets, connected water, provided four 44-gallon drums to store back-up water, and set up a committee to oversight the new system.
The committee will ensure that the toilets are used wisely, have running water, detergents and other necessities. The 28 households will take turns cleaning the toilets. They have demonstrated ownership, because they wanted this change.
During the opening, a team from the World Vision WASH program was also invited to speak on hygiene and sanitation.
Other parts of the village are already talking about the project and how they can also create change in their own ways and improve their lives, says Dinah. The effect of Dinah’s desire for change is already creating ripples, and she is upbeat about it.
Such is the power and beauty of change. People like Dinah who drive this phenomenon in their communities are the “champions of change”.
BARUNI, NCD, PAPUA NEW GUINEA