Bernadeth, a role model for WASH leadership

In the Solomon Islands, the New Times, New Targets Project is encouraging women to take up leadership roles to strengthen sanitation and hygiene in schools.

An outstanding example of a female teacher taking charge of WASH improvements is Mrs Bernadeth Andy Tafea. She was first introduced to WASH in 2018 when she was teaching at Marara Primary School. There she was trained in WASH operation and maintenance and gender and social inclusion.

Through the training, she gained confidence in leading WASH improvements in her school. Her leadership role as a WASH mentor was recognised by the Guadalcanal Provincial Education Ministry, and after she gained leadership skills in WASH, the Ministry relocated her to Tamboko Primary school in 2022, to improve the hygiene practices in the school and community.

Training with the Live & Learn team allowed Bernadeth to engage with women from the community, female teachers, the WASH club, and some community elders, to speak out about issues they were facing regarding the water, sanitation and hygiene of students.  When the school tanks were emptied during one of the long droughts the country has faced, Bernadeth collaborated with Tamboko leaders to pump water from a community borehole to the tanks.

Her leadership has extended into the community, encouraging them to get involved in the school WASH Program. This is important in the Solomons, as the land where schools are built is owned by the community. Bernadeth’s leadership has seen a change in the relationship of the school and community.

In Melanesian society, female teachers are less likely to lead in school activities. Often, communities would not see them as leaders. Male teachers would dominate leadership roles.

But there has been a shift in dynamics of leadership in WASH at the community level. Through role models like Bernadeth, young boys and girls and women are more confident to lead WASH activities in schools, and to make decisions in individual households. Male teachers understand the value of female teachers’ leadership roles in the schools, and this has seen more female teachers leading in the student WASH club.

The New Times, New Targets Project is an Australian aid initiative implemented by Plan International Australia in partnership with Live & Learn Environmental Education on behalf of the Australian Government.