Sesame Street Water: A Multi-media Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Intervention for Children and their Caregivers in Bangladesh, India and Nigeria


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Sesame Street Water: A Multi-media Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Intervention for Children and their Caregivers in Bangladesh, India and Nigeria


I would like to let you know about a project that we at Sesame Workshop (you know the children's TV Show "Sesame Street"?) are carrying out, with funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Title of grant: Sesame Street Water
Subtitle: A Multi-media Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Intervention for Children and their Caregivers in Bangladesh, India and Nigeria

  • Name of lead organization: Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit educational organization supported by foundations, corporations, government agencies and others.
  • Primary contact at lead organization: June Lee, Vice President, International Research
  • Grantee location: New York, NY, USA
  • Developing country where the research is being tested: Bangladesh, India, Nigeria
  • Start and end date: November 6, 2012 – October 31, 2015
  • Grant type: Global Development
  • Grant size in USD: $2,030,307 (see entry in grant database here )
Short description of the project:
“Cleaner, Healthier, Happier” is a multi-media project developed by Sesame Workshop to promote positive behaviors related to sanitation and hygiene among children ages 3 to 7 years and their caregivers in low-resource communities in Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria. The project provides critical messaging on using the latrine, wearing footwear when defecating, promoting handwashing to break the oral-fecal route of disease transmission, safe water collection and purification practices, and improved waste disposal practices. The project includes both mass media (PSAs) and community and school-engagement components, where implementing partners facilitate with content with children (and to a lesser degree, caregivers) in areas where such content is especially needed. In Bangladesh, the team is working in tea gardens in Moulvibazar; in India, the program takes place in urban slums in Kolkata; and in Nigeria, it is implemented in schools in rural and peri-urban areas outside Abuja.

Create engaging and educationally effective media content to promote culturally and contextually relevant sanitation and hygiene knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAPs) among children and their caregivers; and assess the relative efficacy of different approaches to messaging (with a social vs. personal orientation) in changing these KAPs.

Improve sanitation and hygiene knowledge, attitudes, and practices among children and caregivers

Impact evaluation partner: University of Maryland.
Implementation partners:
Bangladesh: BSA (government), MSEDA (NGO), Mac-Bangladesh (NGO), and SRISTY (NGO).
India: Children International (NGO).
Nigeria: Explore Education (NGO), Federal Capital Territory Basic Education Board (government), and National Youth Service Corps (government).

Links, further readings – results to date:

Documents in SuSanA library:

Curriculum for the project (GATES EDUCATIONAL FRAMEWORK:
A Multi-Media Sanitation and Hygiene Intervention for Children and Their Caregivers in Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria)

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Raya on our blog:

Interview between Raya and Brian Arborgast in May 2014:

Along with the Workshop’s delegation at the fair, Sesame’s newest member of its Muppet family, Raya, a 6-year-old, fuzzy, aqua-green girl, was introduced to the world for the first time. Brian Arbogast, Director of the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sat down for a chat with our new friend, Raya.

Sesame Street in general:
Follow us on Twitter:
Our Website:

Current state of affairs:
Pilot projects completed in Bangladesh and Nigeria; pilot project launched in India. Pilot projects are implemented on a small scale (reaching approximately 500 children) over a course of 1-3 months. Full-scale rollout began in Bangladesh and scheduled to begin in Nigeria in the first quarter of 2015 and in India in the second quarter of 2015. Full scale-rollout will last for 4-6 months.

Biggest successes so far:
We created a new Muppet, Raya for the initiative, and she has gained traction as a spokesperson for important WASH issues while speaking from a child’s point of view. Raya was created for the initiative and there are plans to integrate her into the TV series in Bangladesh and India. She will also be central to future Sesame Workshop global health and WASH projects. In addition, our in-country programs in Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria have garnered so much excitement in the communities that many more children participated in the intervention than anticipated. Preliminary research results from Bangladesh suggest that children and caregivers in communities that received the intervention have higher scores on some measures of sanitation and hygiene knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.

Main challenges / frustration:
Some of the settings in which our interventions take place still face infrastructure challenges (e.g., lack of well-maintained, usable toilets); promoting behavior change is challenging without being able to guarantee infrastructure. On the research front, it has been a challenge to keep the intervention groups separate from the control group in some settings (e.g., in densely concentrated schools in Nigeria), and researchers have to use alternate measures of exposure (such as character recognition) to assess the project’s impact.

I am happy to hear your comments or questions about this project.

Best regards, June

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