Intergenerational dialogue - WASH in schools from Kenya

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Country: Kenya

Kenya: intergenerational dialogue – water life and perspectives

Basic data:

The focus of the intergenerational dialogues in Kenya was about perceived (health) changes that took place at the individual, group and institutional level; changes that took place by providing access to sanitation and water supply and the use of innovative hygienic measures in schools, among other things.

The project and the experiences:

Inadequate access to drinking water is a serious concern in urban areas. About 80% of all illnesses in Kenya are directly connected to poor water supply and sanitation. Infant mortality is higher than the national average in these most rapidly growing areas of Kenya. Women and girls are particularly affected by poor urban sanitation.

The Water Sector Reform Programme (WSRP) aimed to formalise service provision for all citizens and fulfil their human right to water supply and sanitation. After nine years (2004 - 2013) of project implementation Mathare benefited from water kiosks (picture ‘Water kiosk women’) and will benefit in future from public sanitation facilities financed through the WSTF.

The focus of the intergenerational dialogues in Kenya was on the exchange between young and old about perceived (health) changes that took place at the individual, group and institutional level; changes that took place by providing access to sanitation and water supply and the use of innovative hygienic measures in schools, among other things.

(School)boys and girls between 11-15 acted as ‘community researchers’ in a monitoring process, asking older inhabitants (friends, family, municipal key persons etc) about their past and present life in Mathare, rural to urban migration, working conditions, family life, challenges of life and future prospects. There was a special focus on the perception of the actions and results in the context of water and sanitation and the improvements brought by the construction of water kiosks in Mathare. At the heart of the surveys were questions on what has changed for people in this respect, and what politics, business, local authorities and the younger and older inhabitants themselves can do to make changes more effective and sustainable.

Intergenerational dialogues as part of results monitoring in schools, families and local communities have a clear relevance to approaches based on the sociology of knowledge, action research and ethnography (see introduction). The subject is the relationship between everyday life, biography and life history (individual level) and social and sociocultural reality (social level). The question of the socio-psychological importance of changes in perception and attitudes is particularly relevant for lessons learned in WASH projects.

The intergenerational dialogue project was carried out jointly by GIZ-WSRP Kenya and the ‘New Socio-political Perspectives’ Group in Eschborn. The reports and biographies offer an authentic and reflective look at daily life situations in densely-populated low income urban areas like Mathare. The complete publication is available at or here

The key lessons of the story:

The intergenerational dialogue provides young and old people with a platform to exchange their perception of their water, sanitation and hygiene situation/context.

Spotlight on the method: each stage of the Generational Dialogue has its impression

Preparation (picture ‘Editorial group 4’)

  • Attract the attention of boys and girls between 11-14 in the community as participants and ‘young researchers’.
  • Letters to parents to get their permission, training older students as youth promoters
  • Clarifying logistics: locating a suitable editorial office for at least four days; organize safe transportation (e.g. bus) for the children to get to their interviews.

Forming the groups

  • Formulation of imaginative ‘discovery questions’ in order to learn about the perspective of the inhabitants of Mathare.
  • Every group covered the issue of water and sanitation, which was supplemented by a specific area for each group (Group 1: Everyday life in Mathare; Group 2: Funny and sad stories; Group 3: Youth, growing up and family) (picture ‘Editorial group 3’)
  • Goal: raising awareness for understanding and discovering social reality and the impacts of the WASH activities through the eyes of the children.

Community dialogue

  • Raise interest in and curiosity about the biographies of the ‘young and old’ participants → fruitful dialogue with regard to monitoring the impacts of water, sanitation and hygiene measures (picture ‘Four generations’).
  • Goal: stimulate curiosity in discovering ‘unknown aspects of things which seem familiar’.

Expanding the questions

  • In the course of the community dialogue, key questions were treated in more depth and compared (picture ‘Editorial group 1’).
  • There was a special focus on the question of water and sanitation, and on residents’ perception of improvements, especially with regard to the water kiosks and access to sanitation.

Writing and summarising

  • Collection and visualisation of articles and reports in the notes, sketches and interviews: Was there a perception of an improvement in everyday life of people in Mathare as a result of the WASH measures? (Measuring results of the project)
  • Useful tool: the ‘life cycle’ (picture ‘life cycle’) which demonstrates and reconstructs the link between personal and social life.

Project details

Type of project: Water Sector Reform Programme (WSRP)

Project period: 9 years (01/04 – 12/12)

Start of operation: January 2004

Project scale: EUR 17,000,000 (Partner contribution around EUR 200,000)

The Kenyan Government has implemented water sector reforms for the last ten years, including among other things developing and strengthening comprehensive pro-poor policies and putting in place new legal and institutional frameworks. Based on these policies and strategies, the Water Sector Reform Programme (WRSP), funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ under a BMZ commission, focuses on sustainable development through institutional and human capacity development. In close collaboration between water utilities, the Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF) and German financial cooperation (KfW), a number of water kiosks and public sanitation facilities have been built in low income areas since 2009.


GIZ (Kenya)

Dirk Schäfer

GIZ (Germany)

Hans-Heiner Rudolph