Are you sitting peacefully?
You may wonder why a peace charity spends its time building toilets. I certainly did, I also did not realise when I said that I would go to Ghana that a major activity would be going on tours of toilets!
So what does peace have to do with toilets? Well, CHIPS knows from its 50 years of experience that we in the UK do not have the answers to a conflict in the Ghanaian countryside. As aptly demonstrated by me, we find performing normal everyday functions (particularly bathroom activities) difficult in such a foreign context, so instead of assuming that we have the answers CHIPS started by asking the question ‘What can we do?’.
From the elders in Nakpayili the swift answer was toilets.
On my visit I was proudly shown soakaways (areas created to soak up water from bathing and urinating cubicles) and toilets (hut like structures with covered pits for sewage) that were in various stages of construction. The CHIPS team has trained members of the community how to build and look after these facilities. Everyone hoped that soon the whole community might have access to one of their own.
Toilet construction in Nakpayili
Word of this project has spread and opened doors for CHIPS in new villages in the area. I went to visit some of the newest facilities in the nearby village of Moba. The people with soakaways were so thankful for the help CHIPS has given them. With the soakaways they have seen a drastic decrease in the number of mosquitos in the village because there are no longer stagnant pools of water. They have also noticed their animals being healthier and cleaner as they cannot access the faecal matter.
That is all well and good, but what does it have to do with peace?
Firstly it builds a good reputation for the CHIPS team as people who listen to the concerns of the villagers and then actually do something about them. For CHIPS this is an invaluable foundation of trust to get people involved in future projects.
Secondly it is easier to bring people together over a common problem than it is to invite them to come together to speak about peace. When a conflict is ‘hot’ people are often too scared to come together to speak about it and when a conflict is ‘cold’ most people are too busy with everyday life to see the benefit of coming together.
Therefore CHIPS uses these everyday concerns to demonstrate how the team can work together across tribal lines and to show that members of all the tribes have very similar concerns. Our many years of experience show that it is through these long-term, relationship building tactics that you can bring about a lasting peace with people on the ground.
So there you have it, peace-bringing toilets!