The barber is shaving the donkey

Published by Tony Quinlan on

A compound in a village near Dhaka, Bangladesh

A compound in a village near Dhaka, Bangladesh

Last week saw a return to BRAC in Bangladesh.  Working with IRC again, following on from two successful pilots 18 months ago – one around latrine behaviour change, the other around participation and attitudes to Village Wash Committees. This time we were asked back to start a fresh programme, one that is more than a pilot – planning to design it into ongoing work in Bangladesh.  The topic this time is to explore issues around hygiene promotion – specifically to gather material to allow the design of new interventions and to help support the communications skills of field staff.

A handwashing demonstration to a women’s cluster meeting near Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka is a wonderful city to return to, but as with too many trips at the moment, the nature of the project and the time in country means there’s little exploring time.  We landed at 0450, reached the hotel around 0830, the first meeting starting around 0930/1000.

In the space of five days, we discovered the topic of the project, extracted material, built an initial SenseMaker framework for narrative capture, tested it in field, made amendments and planned sampling and training strategies for the next six months.  And then we flew out on Friday morning at 0600.

As projects go, this is a fascinating one – we know that by getting the framework right in the first place, there will be useful insight from even small amounts of data.  But with a grand sampling strategy planned by the excellent IRC team, we’re going to get substantially more material and some fantastic opportunities to support the adoption of better hygiene practices throughout the country.

While visiting the sights of Dhaka was nigh-on impossible, we did manage a visit to the multi-faceted Aarong shop, from which I picked up a copy of “Bengali for Foreigners”, from which the title of this blogpost was taken.  It’s an unusual guide, mostly filled with phrases in seemingly random order that should be useful to any foreign visitor.

Alternative titles include:  “The owl hunts at night,” “The general is dead” and my personal favourite “I shall paint the box black.”  I do wonder whether this was actually a code book of recognition phrases for spies in the 70s, meeting on park benches and indulging in non-sequitur call-and-response identification games.