Project background

Efforts to encourage positive attitudes and behaviours towards sanitation and hygiene are in vain if those being targeted have no desire to change or feel that tradition is a stronger force than innovation. Campaigns based on a ‘push’ model whereby implementers and policymakers try to tell people what they should do based on their policy or social change agenda frequently fail. Young people, who are most suspicious of messaging from adults, and least easy to reach with conventional media, are particularly hard to reach using this type of top-down approach. Well Told Story produces Shujaaz (“Heroes”) comic, a two-time Emmy Award-winning, multi-media communications platform that uses rigorous research and user-centred design to inspire and motivate millions of young Tanzanians and Kenyans to take action to improve their lives and engage with urgent issues that shape their future. With HDIF funding, WTS will use the Shujazz brand to improve the low uptake of WASH behaviours in Tanzania with specific focus on increasing positive menstrual hygiene practices, appropriate hand-washing behaviours and an increase in the number of youth and adults using hygienic sanitation facilities.

Project description

WTS has developed a two-year persuasion strategy executed through a monthly campaign which, in particular, aims to increase the understanding of young people aged 10–24 of positive WASH behaviours and promote access to affordable solutions. As part of this work, WTS had also conducted research under the ‘Ground Truth’ study to explore barriers to proper menstrual hygiene, hand washing and use of improved sanitation among youth across the country. From these findings, the team has defined the WASH persuasion strategy for each segment of the audience (messages, ask and creative tactics for all Shujaaz media) to frame the narrative, characters and role models to be included. Shujaaz has built on three elements to help reach a critical mass of youth with positive attitudes towards new WASH behaviours:

  • Scale: Young Tanzanians find it easy to access Shujaaz in millions of free comic books, syndicated FM radio, online and social media, SMS and live events.
  • Authenticity: All media content is created by young people themselves to be highly relevant, compelling and entertaining with role-model characters.
  • Value: WTS works with other like-minded partners to create persuasion strategies that create value to the youth at a time in their life when the need for peer /society recognition is the greatest.

Project goals

Through the HDIF grant, WTS aims to:

  • Transform attitudes, behaviours and norms on improved sanitation, hand washing with soap and menstrual hygiene management among young people (and through them, their communities and families);
  • Reach 40 per cent of young people through Shujaaz mass media and 20 per cent more indirectly via young people who are deemed as champions of change, innovation and technology within the family and household;
  • Focus on the most poor and vulnerable communities through its Superfans network (3,000 young Shujazz comic distributors), by leveraging existing youth networks, increasing radio coverage and providing free SMS;
  • Record improvements in self-esteem and confidence, a shift in conversations and perceptions, and an increase in knowledge about WASH issues, with an intrinsic motivation to adopt a new WASH behaviour amongst the youth; and
  • Promote HDIF’s most promising WASH innovations at national scale through all Shujaaz media.

Gender equity and social inclusion

For many young women the world over, menstruation is an unwelcome addition to the gender disparities they already face. In communities across Tanzania, the lack of positive menstrual hygiene practices can have serious effects on their health, education and dignity. Through Shujaaz, WTS aims to improve young girls’ self-esteem and wellbeing by helping to develop their understanding of how best to access, use and dispose of sanitary products and increase their awareness of their bodies and their rights.

Principles for digital development

Design with the user: WTS puts young people at the centre of the design process. The Shujaaz platform has been created by young people for young people. It captures stories from real young Tanzanians that help Shujaaz to communicate new norms and behaviours to its audience in a subtle and persuasive way to affect proven, positive and lasting change.

Reuse and improve: Having successfully rolled out in Kenya, where 50 per cent of young people trust the Shujazz brand, WTS has now scaled up in Tanzania. The Shujaaz innovation is adaptable and versatile to respond to changes and failures as the innovation unfolds.

Next steps

After only 18 months of implementation, 18 per cent of young people express loyalty to Shujaaz. WTS ambition is therefore to double this number in Tanzania and to make Shujaaz a commercially viable product by exploring several commercial partnerships.


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