3 Questions

Saskia Geling

Saskia is Simavi’s Programme Manager WASH. She manages and supervises the WASH team in monitoring and developing programmes and funding proposals and advices on WASH policies. With 13 years of experience at Simavi, she is an expert on sustainable WASH. We asked her what she has learned over this time.


What is Simavi’s sustainable WASH ambition? And how are you going to accomplish this?

“Simavi wants to ensure both access to, and safe use of, WASH services as we believe these are both  necessary for the structural improvement of basic health. Improved access alone is not sufficient to live and maintain a healthy life: it’s just as important to empower communities so they can demand their rights and actually utilise these services. Therefore when we develop and implement WASH programmes we make sure they match every aspect of our FIETS sustainability values: Financial, Institutional, Environmental, Technical and Social.”


What result are you most proud of?

“It’s great whenever we succeed in increasing awareness within a community and strengthening their voices, so they can claim their rights themselves. In Bangladesh we introduced a budget tracking tool and facilitated hearing meetings in which people could voice their WASH demands and ensure that the local government reflected these in their annual budgets. This resulted in a local budget increase of about 20% for WASH in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh, which I’m very proud of.”


Why is it so difficult to realise structural use of WASH services?

“Donors often want to see quick results, but behaviour change takes patience and time – at least three years before you get actual results. For instance, in the 1990s Simavi installed a drinking water supply system in West Uyoma, Kenya. Today, more than ten years after we finished the project, it has become a water board that provides WASH services to more people than we had originally planned. Not only is the community aware of their rights, they’re also willing to pay to use the services. They can continue and upscale the project on their own. This shows that in the long run it is worth investing in the social, as much as the technical, aspects of WASH.”

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