Ernest Nyame (2017), an IFRC Global Innovation Pioneer Story

Hand washing with Ananse (HWWA) is a health educational game designed to engage children in school through storytelling, songs, dance, acting, and play. It seeks to generate a desire to wash their hands with soap, some of the key insights include; why to wash hands; how to wash hands; and when to wash hands with soap through games.

The project has been launched in an innovative way, throughout storytelling and participatory games to encourage children to wash their hands during important moments of the day.

This innovative Hand Washing technique was developed by UNICEF in collaboration with Ghana Red Cross, Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Right to Play, Engagement Lab at Emerson College and Ghana Education Service.

We believe strongly that if we want to effect behaviour change in our children, there is the need to be innovative to inspire them. Thus, we decided to channel our education through games. Games can be an effective means for changing behaviour and learning. Much of the literature points to the fact that games can give players an opportunity to test out solutions within a safe environment and they can lead to a creative and more robust understanding of multi-stakeholder situations.

Ghana Red Cross Society used youth volunteer leaders to engage school children and community members on the HWWA project.

How did we implement the initiative?

We needed to instruct over 200 of our volunteers and staff members to embark on a step-down training with youth leaders and teachers to implement HWWA activities with the community members in the schools and communities.

It was expected that with this number of volunteers we will be able to reach over 20,000 children with innovative hand washing techniques within a term of 3 months.

A real test for the initiative

Currently, Ghana Red Cross is implementing the Hand Washing with Ananse initiative in some selected schools in Central and Eastern Region with funding support from UNICEF through Right to Play. Trainers engaged over 1500 school children in the hand washing activities. Afterwards, activities were introduced to the children on weekly basis. In the first week, they were introduced to the importance of washing hands with water and soap, using the stories and games strategies, the participation was extremely high. Some of the insights gathered after the first week included;

In the first week, they were introduced to the importance of washing hands with water and soap using stories and games strategies; is worth to mention that participation was extremely high. Some of the insights collected after the first week included;

-Germs are small animals that can make you get sick.

-I will wash my hands with water and soap so I cannot fall sick.

-If I shake someone’s hand I must wash my hands.

-I will tell my friends to wash their hands before eating.

-I will wash my hands after I finish playing.

The children were amazed to know how germs can spread quickly from one person to many others who did not wash hands with soap and water.

The second week focused on strengthening the basics and introduce the proper way of washing hands using soap and water. This activity was featured with a very catchy song, that anyone could easily remember.

The Song goes like this:

Water and Soap, Water and Soap

Fingers and Thumbs, Fingers and Thumbs

Back and In-between, Back and In-between

Nails Rinse Dry.

During the third week, the children went through a role play exercise to learn about hand washing before cooking, eating, feeding the baby, and after going to the toilet. It was interesting to see children dramatising the critical moment of hand washing with soap and water.

What thrilled me the most after four weeks of courses, was seeing the children re-telling the stories of HWWA and the key lessons as if they were now a regular part of their lives.

Find out more about the Handwashing with Ananse here.

Ernest Nyame-Annan

Ghana Red Cross National Youth Coordinator, IFRC Global Innovation Pioneer

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