International Women’s Day 2019 is on Friday, March 8, and it’s a day to celebrate the diverse achievements of women, and to accelerate gender equality. We’re taking this opportunity to celebrate one of the talented individuals with whom we work, and to talk about how we can accelerate gender equality in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Women and girls are some of the most vulnerable populations that we must consider when designing WASH interventions. If you want to learn more about the impacts of water, sanitation and hygiene for maternal and child health, check out our fact sheet.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we sat down with one of our outstanding team members, Lemlem Zeleke Kebede, to discuss the importance of monitoring and evaluation in delivering effective WASH interventions to reach vulnerable populations, such as women and children. A little background on Lemlem: She has over a decade of relief and development experience in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating hygiene and sanitation promotion programs for refugees, local communities, and internally displaced people.
Lemlem champions the collection, monitoring, and evaluation of WASH projects to impact health outcomes for women, children, and other vulnerable populations. Before moving to Calgary, she worked at CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training Centre in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Kale Heywot Church Development Commission. She is now a Knowledge & Research Advisor here at CAWST—and a monitoring and evaluation master (though she would never tell you that herself). Monitoring and evaluation might sound pretty formidable to you (and they are!) so grab a cup of coffee and read on: Lemlem brings an inspiring mix of passion, focus, insight, and methodology to CAWST and our clients.
Who is a female role model that you look up to and why?
When I worked in Ethiopia at the International Rescue Committee, there were two WASH technical advisors on the team whom I especially admired, Dorothy Peprah and Penninah Mathenge. They were strong and supportive, and they encouraged me to do my job better. They coached and mentored me over the years to improve the quality of my knowledge and skills. I aspire to be like Dorothy and Penninah—they were confident, smart, and eloquent.
Tell us about how you got into WASH, and especially the monitoring and evaluation of WASH projects.
I started my career in Ethiopia as an elementary school teacher, then went on to teach a high school biology. I loved to teach, but my real passion was development. I transitioned to working in WASH as a trainer with Ethiopian Kale Heywot Church (now a WET Centre). Then, I became a National WASH Advisor with IRC and it was really that role that opened me up to pursue monitoring and evaluation. At that time, I would oversee WASH projects. While we had some resources to support with monitoring and evaluation, I had a supervisor at the time who encouraged me to take courses so I could start to lead more in that field, growing professionally and with the organization. During those years, I was curious and driven to learn more about public health and to widen my perspective on approaches to development. Then in my master’s at the University of Leeds I learned about evidence-based approaches and logical models, and I’ve been able to apply these insights in my work with CAWST, especially in supporting our clients with monitoring and evaluation.
What does monitoring and evaluation entail in WASH projects? What kind of statistics can you collect?
Monitoring and evaluation of WASH projects goes hand-in-hand with other project activities, guiding the execution of the work, and determining whether the project is successful or not in different areas. The type of data we collect is based on the planned activities and our intended outcomes of the project.
Monitoring is continuous. All throughout the project activities we track inputs and outputs against how we planned the project. Monitoring helps us to ensure that we deliver on what we planned to do.
Evaluation is periodic. It allows us to look back and consider whether what we executed achieved the objectives that we intended.
For example, a we might plan to create education materials and train on technical WASH activities. In that case, we would monitor: how many materials we developed, what materials in comparison to what we planned, and whether we are actually training the people we planned to train. When we do an evaluation, we might look at whether people are using the technology we trained on correctly, continually, and consistently. If the answer is no, we seek to understand why, what are the motivational factors, and we can adjust our plans from there.
What I often see are projects that place men as the leaders of WASH facility management and construction. This assumes that women cannot participate in these elements of WASH projects, and that their role is to support the household. Women and girls are not just the passive receivers of WASH, they must be a key player in the project implementation. When we work with them to understand their specific challenges, as well as what they see as the solutions, we can create WASH interventions that suit everyone.
Tell us about a time when you saw monitoring and evaluation change the course of a project.
I just got home from a trip to Nepal, supporting our Water Expertise and Training Centre, ENPHO, to reflect on an evaluation we did and plan the next steps. The results of this evaluation are pushing us to change course. Originally, we set ambitious targets around training on household water treatment options and total sanitation; our focus to date has been on improving technical knowledge. Considering our evaluation results, we are noticing that the technical knowledge is not enough; we are not reaching households to use technology as consistently as we hoped. We’re currently still planning for our next phase of the project, but I can tell you that we will shift our focus and efforts towards behaviour change interventions. To start, these efforts may look like household visits to connect with people more directly and understand their challenges and barriers to taking action on their water, sanitation and hygiene needs.
Beyond that example, when we design projects, it’s very important that we conduct needs assessments and gender analyses. I believe this should be conducted by focusing on women, girls, men and boys. All of their needs need to be accounted for in the design of projects, and the monitoring and evaluation of projects, in order to achieve equitable WASH access. What I often see are projects that place men as the leaders of WASH facility management and construction. This assumes that women cannot participate in these elements of WASH projects, and that their role is to support the household. Women and girls are not just the passive receivers of WASH, they must be a key player in the project implementation. When we work with them to understand their specific challenges, as well as what they see as the solutions, we can create WASH interventions that suit everyone.
Another layer of this challenge happens on the implementation side. There is an overwhelming majority of males with an engineering background in the position of implementers. It’s important that we continue to encourage women to enter this field and that we support current implementers to design with a gender equity lens in mind.
How is monitoring and evaluation typically done in WASH projects?
I have seen a big range of how the information is collected – from pencils and notepads, to using tablets and using GIS data to find the most vulnerable areas to focus efforts in. I have supported client organizations of CAWST to innovate their ways of collecting health information and other metrics. Working with the Environment and Public Health Organization of Nepal (ENPHO) in partnership with CAWST, on the Nepali Earthquake Relief Fund, I introduced the team to use a software and tablets to collect data, shifting away from using pen and paper. This change impacted the quality of the data being collected, it increased our efficiency and capacity to collect data, and our ability to use it to adapt interventions for optimal impact.
Regardless of how the data is being collected, the most important thing to remember is the ultimate purpose of evaluation and monitoring. That is, to improve the project and to ensure that we are meeting the needs of communities we serve, in the most equitable way possible.
What are some of the challenges with monitoring and evaluation in WASH?
Sometimes we don’t get the results we hoped for, and that can be disheartening, but that is why we do monitoring and evaluation: to deliver more accurate and impactful services and interventions. There are a myriad of factors in achieving our goals – implementation may not work out was we planned, and we need to adjust as those factors emerge. I think we can mitigate this when we make monitoring and evaluation an integral part of the project design because it helps us to account for SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) goals. It is all too easy to get distracted by the results we think are appealing.
Secondly, sometimes we become so concerned with delivering on the activities, we don’t give time and due attention to the data, which can affect the quality of the data, making it hard to use.
Lastly, in designing projects with monitoring and evaluation in mind, we sometimes get distracted by the nice-to-know data. It’s so common now to have lots of data available to us, but collecting that takes time and resources. We must spend the time upfront thinking about what data is going to tell us and what is the need-to-know data.
What solutions does CAWST offer clients who want to learn about monitoring and evaluation?
We have a workshop on Monitoring for Improvement to help create monitoring systems and collect data required to measure project performance. We also offer consulting services to clients on how to undertake data collection, analysis, and report writing so that they limit errors and duplication.
Read more on Monitoring and Evaluation in our Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage Knowledge Base.
Tori D’Avella, BA, MSOD is a Public Engagement Officer on the Public Engagement & Donor Initiatives team at CAWST. She recently completed an MSc in Organization Development, exploring the factors that lead to resilient partnerships in sustainability and systems change initiatives. Tori has international consulting experience in Botswana, China, Costa Rica, and France. Fluent in English and Italian, Tori is a public speaking virtuoso and relishes great conversations over coffee.