Be (clean & safe) water, my friend: First WASH-related UPSHIFT initiative takes place in Tajikistan

603 adolescents from every corner of Tajikistan brought contextualized innovation to water, sanitation and hygiene challenges in the country. That was the number of participants involved in the UPSHIFT campaign organized for the Youth Innovation Challenge, a contest focused on youth solution to WASH problems at community level.

From Mid-April to June 19 when the final stage took place during the Children´s Water Forum — a Pre-Conference event organized jointly by UNICEF and the government of Tajikistan for the High Level International Water Conference on the launch of the Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development” (2018-2028) that took place in Dushanbe 20-21 June — 134 team applications were received and 14 were selected as best innovative solutions to WASH problems in Tajikistan.

The process started with all the team applications being exposed to the UPSHIFT social innovation curriculum, a human-centered design approach, that has been recently introduced in Tajikistan based on UNICEF best practices in other countries. The challenge on WASH in the scope of the Children’s Forum was a movement to introduce UPSHIFT at scale to decision-makers and broader public in Tajikistan, while at the same time bringing awareness on WASH issues in different parts of the country and giving voices to adolescents who can provide contextualized solutions to them. Adolescents from all over Tajikistan participated in the three-day boot camp called UPSHIFT workshop, where they were provided with a content allowing them to develop their idea to a real solution. On the third day, the teams pitched their innovative solution, leading to the final selection.

The 14 projects, a fantastic panoply of best WASH-related innovation practices among Tajik youth, ranged from bio toilets for communities with water shortage or a dung collector for cows that became quite popular in the Tajik media targeted to reduce pollution created by cow feces, to a rain-water reservoir with a filter and a pump turning the rain-water into safe irrigation water. Furthermore, absence or improper use of soap in schools were addressed by adolescents through innovative projects called “Pocket soap” and self-produced soap from herbs of mountainous Badakhshan with grandma recipe.

Caption: The video shows the path followed by the Youth Innovation Challenge, from its inception to the selection of the 14 finalists.

On June 19, during the celebration of Children´s Water Forum, 3 projects were chosen as the winners, and 14 finalists were awarded with seed-funding of up to $1000 depending on the needs of each project. The award for best project was given to the Mujiza (“Miracle” in Tajik) Team for the prototype of a see-saw transformed into a water pump. With this prototype, the members of the team, Avazbek, Sabrina, Avazsho and Farangis, will solve a real need of their community in a fun, affordable and easy way.