“They Call me Mama Choo” – Maria Kisiri

Maria Kisiri, 44, is one of the CHWs in Serengeti District, and we capture some of her experience with the FINNISH Mondial project. Upon receiving training from Amref in 2018, Maria’s area of work has been at Central Stand ward in Serengeti District, where, alongside other CHWs, she conducts house-to-house awareness on sanitation and hygiene about the dangers of contagious diseases caused by poor access to improved sanitation and hand washing practices. In addition to creating awareness, CHWs have also been given hands-on skills on how to build toilets using locally made materials.  

“The training I received has not only built my confidence in educating people about hygiene, but also has equipped me with hands-on skills on how to build toilets using locally available materials,” Maria says with confidence.  

“I have also been taken to training at Busia district in Kenya and where I learned how to build toilets using local materials …Amref Health Africa has provided us with the ability to teach the society and the community has received it well,” she adds. 

Maria’s efforts have started bearing fruits. In a spate of two years, she has managed to mobilize her community to build toilets using available resources. “Many people have since built toilets and now, we have many toilets in the districts and our district has many households that have toilets…We provided community awareness, training and knowledge and the community…We provide them with instructions to build toilets which are modern,” she says with a tinge of pride.  

Like any start, it was not easy to convince people to shun the old practice of open defecation, which, according to Maria, was a deeply cultural issue. The traditional myths were some of the main obstacles.  

“In the beginning the community had negative beliefs. For instance, the Kurya tribe believed that men should not share toilet with their daughter-laws (mkwa mwana) …This situation made men to shun building toilets and instead family members preferred to defecate in the nearby bushes…”  

However, courtesy of the Amref’s FINNISH project, the situation has gradually changed over the last two years. Awareness and education by CHWs has been the key driving force for behavioral change.  

Since the project started, Maria has helped people to build more than 496 toilets, where only 17 were built by the project’s technicians, and after that people started building by themselves. 

In order to make the project more attractive to those who did not have resources, a micro-credit component was introduced in the project where some members were financially enabled by the banks. For instance, Maria says, 24 people have since received loans from Equity bank. In order to keep track of the records, Maria, along her other CHWs, have to file monthly reports to Amref staff.  

“I’m really grateful to Amref for this project… The FINISH Project has reminded us that a toilet is essential in a house and we ask that they should continue providing us with the training and knowledge so that every house builds a toilet…” says Maria. 

Courtesy of the project, Maria’s importance in the community has totally been raised up, to an extent that people have forgotten her real name and opted to nickname her “Mama Choo” (Mother Toilet) in reference to her relentless efforts aimed at ensuring that every home has a toilet. She has become known in the whole ward. “I have accepted the nickname…and they normally call me when they have completed digging their holes for the toilets so that I may check the quality. This project has been very crucial to the community and Amref should continue providing the education,” she says.  

Financial Inclusion Improves Sanitation and Health for Tanzania (FINISH MONDIAL) is a public private partnership (PPP) project funded by the Dutch Government and being implemented in Serengeti district by Amref Health Africa in Tanzania. Its goal is to increase access to sustainable sanitation in the rural financially excluded communities through micro-credit initiatives. The partnership is composed of six local and international partners namely: the Government of Tanzania/Serengeti district Council, Amref Health Africa in Tanzania & Netherlands, Equity bank, WASTE and Aqua for All.