Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Voice of Africa, from the Kingdom in the Sky

I’m on my way back from an inspiring trip to Lesotho – ‘the Kingdom in the Sky’- where I attended the General Assembly of the African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW), who are proud partners of the End Water Poverty campaign.

Representatives from over 40 countries across Africa took part in three days of learning and planning (and an evening of inter-region ‘dance-offs’), as this dynamic and truly Pan-African network makes strides in bringing grassroots voices from across the continent to the region’s leaders.

Logistically remarkable in itself that such a diverse crowd was gathered in a tiny mountain kingdom, and yet more impressive is the progress that has been made in so many places in opening doors and holding Governments to account on water and sanitation.

In just a few years ANEW has established relationships with, successfully lobbied and secured declarations from continental institutions such as the African Union to AMCOW (African Ministers’ Council on Water).

Yet big challenges remain – too many networks are squeezed by their governments, who may fear the contestation advocacy may bring, and too many great minds and organisations are prevented from achieving all they could due to a lack of human or financial resources.

Much to do, but a real confidence that there are civil society voices in Africa willing to make sure it gets done. And if it can be done with the vigour and style of those dance-offs, I pity those who take them on.