Citizens go to school on Sanitation and Hygiene Advocacy

Awutu Beraku (C/R)� Municipal and District Sanitation and Hygiene advocacy teams within the Awutu Senya East Municipal Assembly (ASEMA) and the Awutu Senya District Assembly (ASDA) in the Central Region have updated their skills to competently handle their tasks.

This, they did at a meeting convened by Intervention Forum (IF), a Non-Governmental Organisation, as part of its Voice for Change (V4C) partnership project to help improve sanitation and hygiene within the two administrative areas.

Nana Kwasi Acheampong, Programmes Coordinator of IF, indicated that the activity was essentially looking to arm citizens with the requisite advocacy skills to effectively engage duty bearers on their sanitation and hygiene problems and demand for improvements at the local levels.

Mr. Felix Amakye, Lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), Madina, ran the teams through the scope of work of Municipal and District Sanitation and Hygiene Advocacy Teams (M/DSSHAT) operating at the Municipal and District community levels.

Mr Amakye defined advocacy as actively supporting a cause and trying to get others to support it as well’ and speaking up, drawing attention to an important issue and directing decision-makers towards a solution.

He touched on the purpose of advocacy, major areas of advocacy work such as leadership development; coalition building; networking; political lobbying; promoting legislative change; briefing the media; and counteracting opposition.

He therefore told the participants to have coordinated activities at the district levels by the Area and Zonal Council chairpersons, adding that they must be in constant communication with them on the issues they identified.

One important aspect of their work, he noted, was evidence and data gathering, saying they should identify sanitation and hygiene issues at the community level, collect evidence on existing situations and issues such as pictures, video interviews where these were available.

Mr Amakye, whose interactive form of presentation excited the participants, also touched on advocacy and engagement, urging the teams to collate and channel identified issues to the assembly through the Area and Zonal chairpersons; hold periodic meetings at the district level to review actions taken and their corresponding results and plan the way forward.

He also asked them to participate in district level sanitation and hygiene-related meetings organised by IF under the V4C project; and to submit issues verbally and in writing to the assembly and demand improvements.

Touching on monitoring and follow-up activities, Mr. Amakye said tracking and reporting of changes or improvements observed at the community level and do follow-ups on issues presented to the assembly or Area and Zonal Councils for updates on work done so far.

The lecturer called on them to identify all sanitation stakeholders such as chiefs and elders, landlords/landladies, churches and mosques, market women, hawkers, community members and Area and Zonal Councils.

He also identified others such as Unit Committees, Assembly Members, health workers, women’s groups and politicians and Non-Governmental Organisations, school heads; drivers unions; and Zongo chiefs whose understanding of issues could drive their sanitation and hygiene issues home.

Mr. Amakye also listed the dos and don’ts of advocacy, saying they must not cover multiple issues in one communication, under-estimate the weight given to telephone calls and letters, ignore opportunities to visit their decision-makers, lie, or be politically and culturally insensitive.

Rather, he advised the teams to build relationships, be punctual at meetings, know where to go and pay particular attention to their physical appearance.

During an open forum, the participants said they were sometimes confronted by people who demanded identity cards for their work, and urged IF officials to get them some form of identity to authenticate their true presence.

IF seemed to have granted participants their wish when it presented the teams with La Coste T-shirts bearing the V4C insignia.

Later in an interview with GNA, Mr Amakye noted that though sanitation issues were problematic in the communities, laid-down by-laws must be strictly implemented without hindrance, and culprits punished in accordance with the law.

The V4C partnership project is an evidence-based advocacy programme being implemented by SNV (Netherlands Development Programme) in partnership with the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS).

The project is being implemented by SNV together with its alliance of local partner CSOs/networks in Ghana and across several other developing countries.

It aims at strengthening the capacity of local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to generate reliable and relevant data/evidence to carry out evidence-based advocacy for sustainable improvements in key focus areas namely; Renewable Energy, Water, Sanitation &Hygiene (WASH), and Food Security and Nutrition.

The Ghana WASH component of the project is dubbed; Ghana Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SH4ALL) directed at intensifying the voice of CSOs and citizenry to demand more equitable, affordable and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services and improved policy implementation at the district level.

The project is targeting an array of actors, including ASEMA and ASDA, traditional authorities, waste management companies, microfinance institutions and banks, Community-Based Organisations, communities, assembly members and unit committees, and the media.

Source: Ghana News Agency