Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Strong leadership required to tackle sanitation problems

Large nations, that have been able to ensure only 20 to 60 per cent coverage of sanitation issues, need to focus on political and community leaders at the national, regional, and local level to convey the message of sanitation for all and to encourage behaviour change.  These leaders should be trained and educated on the importance of sanitation and hygiene in order to engender in them the political will to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within the stipulated time.

The above insight emerged at a vibrant and interactive discussion during the inaugural WSSCC Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene (GFSH) held in Mumbai from October 9 to 14. About 500 people from over 70 countries, from regions including South Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the UK, participated in the first event of its kind.

A few of the suggestions that emerged at the discussion:

Make local leaders accountable: An example from Uganda was cited where people literally sign a contract with the government to ensure adequate performance from the local leaders. A time period is given to these leaders for completion of work. A similar system has been introduced in Nepal. Such contracts create pressure on the leaders to perform. Involvement of community leaders was found to be essential. 

Training of leaders emerged as an important aspect of empowering them. An example of the Southern Indian state of Kerala was cited. Kerala is doing extremely well as the government there has developed a force of training experts through its Kutumb Shree plan. Under the plan the local leaders sit together and share their experiences to improve development work in their respective regions.

Involve religious leaders/corporate houses/celebrities: India has witnessed the effectiveness of involvement of religious leaders and celebrities in the polio eradication drive. All those nations where religious leaders or celebrities have fan-following should use them. What is required is to first train them and educate them about the issue and then make them carry the message to the general public. It was also felt that there is a need to involve the corporations, who are spending on education and the environment to meet corporate social responsibility comitments.

Sanitation needs brand ambassadors: All nations taking part in the discussion felt that there was a need to use brand ambassadors to represent WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) issues. It was agreed that it was high time that sanititation issues, which are generally represented in a dry manner, were presented through more glamorous channels such as celebrity brand ambassadors. The WSSCC has made efforts to bring on board Shah Rukh Khan, the super star of Indian movies. A message by Shah Rukh Khan was shown at the inaugural session at GFSH on October 9.

Teachers and children's involvement: Teachers' involvement is necessary to ensure uptake of sanitation and hygiene-related practices in the regular behaviour of children. The discussion also highlighted that children are the best messengers. Inclusion of sanitation and hygiene in school curricula was also suggested.

A few other points covered:

  • Coordination mechanisms
  • The need to recognize people who are doing good work and how this inspires others
  • Creating a sense of competitiveness to inspire others to work
  • The necessity of making leaders accountable
  • Networks of civil societies play a major role in bringing grassroots organizations together on a single platform
  • We need to seize opportunities to lobby around issues
  • Conveying methods with simplicity: more often than not experts have created confusion.
  • Lastly and most importantly: the need for commitment! 

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <abbr> <acronym> <address> <b> <bdo> <big> <blockquote> <br> <caption> <cite> <code> <col> <colgroup> <dd> <del> <dfn> <div> <dl> <dt> <em> <embed> <fieldset> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <hr> <i> <iframe> <img> <ins> <kbd> <li> <object> <ol> <p> <param> <pre> <q> <samp> <small> <span> <strike> <strong> <sub> <sup> <table> <tbody> <td> <tfoot> <th> <thead> <tr> <tt> <u> <ul> <var>
    Allowed Style properties: font-weight, text-align, text-decoration, text-indent, text-transform

More information about formatting options