Empowering the custodians of WASH services

To maintain and operate WASH facilities at monastic institutions.

A group of monks working
UNICEF Bhutan/2021/SPelden
07 December 2021

Paro: Until recently, Tshering Dechen, 28, depended on the head monk at their nunnery to repair broken water pipes or taps or any problems related to the water scheme.

Not anymore.

Tshering, who has been a nun for about eight years at Tenchu Goenpa nunnery in the western district of Paro now knows how to fix broken water pipes or replace broken taps.

“Now we are confident that we can repair broken water pipes and taps at our nunnery,” she says. “We have learnt new skills that will come very handy,” adds her fellow nun, Sangay Zam, 18.

Two nuns with pipes
UNICEF Bhutan/2021/SPelden
The two nun participants, Tshering Dechen and Sangay Zam are confident about repairing broken water pipes at their nunnery.

As custodians of WASH facilities at their institutions, the two nuns and 22 monks from 18 monastic institutions in three districts of Chukha, Haa and Paro are today equipped with the tools and skills to maintain and operate water supply schemes in their institutions. The training, held at Paro, is expected to benefit about 895 monks and 42 nuns in these institutions.

UNICEF in partnership with the Central Monastic Body provides hands on training to empower monks and nuns with the skills and tools to ensure that water supply schemes are functioning at their institutions. Toolboxes are also provided to all trained WASH caretakers in the monastic institutions.

Armed with the tools and the skills, Tenzin Wangda, 21, a monk from the southern district of Chukha said he is excited to fix the broken water taps at this monastic school.

“The training helped us understand the importance of WASH services and the need to maintain the facilities,” says Tenzin. “We can now repair broken pipes on our own.”

A group of monks
UNICEF Bhutan/2021/SPelden
Monks pose with the taps and pipes that they learnt to connect during the training.

Phurpa Tshering, 22, from Nephu Goenpa in Paro is another monk who is keen to apply the skills he learnt at the training. He says he has to visit the water schemes, sometimes at night, to clear blocked water pipes especially during the rainy season.

“Now I know the technique to make filters to keep the debris from choking the water pipes,” he says. “I will also create awareness among the monks about the need to maintain WASH facilities.

The manager of Religion and Health Programme at the Central Monastic Body, Lopon Sherab Dorji said the pandemic and climate change have highlighted the importance of WASH services and that it was critical to empower the monks and nuns with the skills to sustain the facilities at the monastic institutions.

“The training helps them learn new skills, share experiences, build networks and support each other in the maintenance and operation of WASH facilities,” he said. “About half of the participants are from private monastic institutions and they have now formed a group chat to connect and learn from each other.”

Two men discussing
UNICEF Bhutan/2021/SPelden
UNICEF Bhutan’s WASH Officer, Sonam Gyaltshen explains the filtration process in WASH facilities to a monk participant.

Jigme Choeda, 18, from the western district of Haa says he plans to teach his friends the skills he learnt from the training.

“We will repair broken taps and water pipes and ensure that we fix water problems at our school by ourselves,” he says. “We learnt that WASH services and facilities are about access and inclusivity and that if we build handwashing stations, we must consider the height of the users."