World Bank Water and Sanitation Program's Global Scaling up Handwashing Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is an effort to expand handwashing among women and children by using innovative promotional approaches. This working paper provides case studies of the project in Vietnam and Peru. Both used entertainment education and teacher capacity building, but as a result of differences in government and education contexts, as well as child-focused research that revealed important cultural differences, programs varied substantially among the two locations. In both cases, the primary school setting was found to be an effective site for improving handwashing.
- In 2006, handwashing with soap was not a common practice in Vietnam. School children didn't think washing was important unless hands were clearly dirty.
- Behavioral research tools, including activities in which children shared their role models, family structures, and emotions, were combined with home and school observations and staff and caretaker interviews.
- The desire to prevent others from getting sick was a powerful motivator for Vietnamese children to wash their hands. This was reflected in the superhero created by the program, who gained special powers to help others by washing his hands with soap.
- In Peru, children are important agents of change in their households, as they readily bring relevant information from school to their mothers.
- Handwashing with soap in Peru was low not because of lack of awareness, but often because soap was not available at school or home. This was addressed with the introduction of a new technology.
- Commitment by schools to the program was greater when participation was on a demand basis.