This is a guest blog by Amanda Mugwambi, a young professional from Zimbabwe enrolled as a mentee in the 2020 RWSN Mentoring Programme.
I’m Amanda Mugwambi from Zimbabwe. I have been working in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector for over 5 years in addition to four years prior of environmental management. I am currently working as a Public Health Promoter for an international NGO. I have had the opportunity to work in both urban and rural projects. It has been fulfilling to see community transformation through donor funding complimenting stakeholder efforts and community engagement.
I heard about the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) mentoring programme through my country’s WASH National Coordination Unit. I was interested in the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills to advance my career and to hear about experiences in other countries. I must admit, I had a bit of trouble in the application process where I had to outline my expectations from being part of the programme. I just didn’t seem to be able to mainstream my thoughts. I wanted to know more about everything! When I finally managed to submit my application, I was anxious to find out who my mentor would be. I hoped they would be able to provide the right balance of academic and professional development. I was matched with Susana Sandoz, a WASH specialist, currently a consultant with UNICEF. RWSN really did an excellent job pairing us! Not only is Susana a seasoned expert but her experience with UNICEF which funds some of the projects I have been working on gave me an extra understanding.
We began the mentorship process with Susana helping me gather my thoughts by streamlining topics that we would like to discuss over the duration of the programme. We communicated via email, whatsapp and skype. We had our first session in April 2020 via skype. To be honest, it was so easy talking to her. I didn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. We met online once a week on skype, then we’d decide on the topic for the following week. Susana would send me literature to review so that I could note down any questions for our next meeting. My favorite part of our sessions was when Susana would tell about her experiences in the different countries she had worked in, some of them were very applicable to Zimbabwe. It was relatable and gave me an insight on how to find solutions to the challenges I faced.
I have a keen interest in School WASH. I particularly liked the sessions on hygiene promotion, menstrual hygiene management, handwashing, child protection, emergency management, disaster risk reduction especially considering the Covid-19 pandemic. I have learnt the importance of using emotional triggers to reinforce positive behavior change such as effective handwashing. And I have also learnt more about community engagement to ensure the success of water and sanitation projects. It is crucial to trigger community members early for them to realize the importance of zero open defecation and the safe water chain to improve their health and hygiene. Below is the list of all the topics we discussed:
|15 Apr||1||COVID 19, Handwashing|
|22 Apr||2||Sanitation and Sato Pans|
|29 Apr||3||Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM)|
|6 May||4||Disability and Inclusion|
|13 May||5||Monitoring & Evaluation; Communication for Disasters|
|20 May||6||Latrine types: advantages and disadvantages|
|10 June||8||Development and Environmental Issues|
|15 June||9||Communication for development (C4D)|
|24 June||10||Social Norms changes|
|14 July||11||Emergencies in WASH|
|21 July||12||Water Quality and Water Treatment|
|28 July||13||Why is Sanitation Important and Advocating for Sanitation|
|5 Aug||14||The Burden of COVID-19|
|25 Aug||17||Child Protection|
|3 Sep||18||Climate Change|
|8 Sep||19||Skills for Interviews|
|15 Sep||20||Hygiene Promotion|
|29 Sep||21||Capacity Building|
|6 Oct||22||WASH in Schools and COVID-19 Reduction|
|13 Oct||23||Types of Rural Water Supply Systems|
|20 Oct||24||Pollution Analysis of Water Supply Systems|
|27 Oct||25||Pollution Analysis of Water Supply Systems|
|11 Nov||26||Urban and Rural Characteristics and Different Approaches in WASH|
|17 Nov||27||Urban and Rural Characteristics and Different Approaches in WASH|
|23 Nov||28||General Climate Change Summary|
|7 Dec||29||How to obtain an Enabling Environment|
|15 Dec||30||Income Generating Activities, General Advice for Latrine Building Questions on topics previously discussed|
I appreciate the opportunity to be part of the RWSN mentorship. A special thanks to Susana, I really enjoyed the sessions, always informative and flexible. We also developed a friendship over the months which was pleasant and has improved our mental health during the pandemic. In our case we have agreed to continue checking up on each other at least once a month. I encourage young professionals to join the RWSN network as it’s a platform for continuous learning and for personal and professional development.
About the author
Amanda Mugwambi holds an MSc in Disaster Management and a BSc in Environmental Science from the University of Science and Technology (NUST) Zimbabwe. Her interests range from WASH, climate change adaptation and Disaster Management.
About the RWSN Mentoring Programme
For more information on the RWSN Mentoring Programme, see here. RWSN thanks the Swiss Development Cooperation and World Vision for their support to the mentoring programme in 2020.