Monday, 21 December 2009

Debt cancellation, schools and latrines - how campaigning can make a difference

Tom Baker

Tom works for Tearfund, an End Water Poverty member, and is a long-time campaigner. Here he writes about the impact campaigning can have for developing communities...

Most people would have just driven past the words 'HiPC benefit' on a recently constructed school building down a dusty, rural, Ghanaian road. But to see those words on the side of a school fired me up when we trundled past on the way to a field visit. Why? Because it's evidence that campaigning really can change things, that signing a petition, sending a postcard, attending a demonstration really can work.

The school is one of the many hundreds that have been built in Ghana as a result of debt cancellation. Jubilee 2000, the campaign to cancel the unpayable debt of the world's poorest nations, was the first campaign that I was ever really part of. I was one of millions of people who signed petitions and sent postcards calling on G8 leaders to drop the debt. Together our actions mattered as leaders listened and acted, which means Ghana is one of many governments in Africa that is now spending money on schools and healthcare facilities to transform communities.

I saw the building on the way to a field visit to an 'open defecation free' community, which was part of the programme of the End Water Poverty global planning meeting last week. Talking together as campaigners from around the world, we've shared in country actions and have been able reflect and celebrate just how far we've come as a coalition in the last few years. Together we've played a vital role in establishing a Global Framework for Action on water and sanitation. An initiative that we believe will start to lead to real change on the ground, for the many millions globally without access to clean water or a decent loo.

In the years to come, we probably won't see signs on the sides of VIP latrines that show it was built as a result of our campaigning effort, but seeing those words 'HiPC benefit' will remind me that our campaigning really does work.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Off to Amenhi

Now, don’t get me wrong, four days in a conference room with End Water Poverty global campaigners is actually a lot of fun – sharing plans, playing energizer games and getting to meet people I usually can only talk with over the telephone. But when we were given a chance to leave the conference centre and travel into the Ghanaian countryside to see a total sanitation project, I couldn’t say no.

Our colleague Lamisi organised the trip to Amenhi, a large village of 405 inhabitants two hours outside Accra. We met the Chief and learnt why they decided to embark on an ambitious plan to eradicate open defecation and adopt the mantra “One house, one toilet”.

Nana, the village Chief, told us that the intervention by local NGOs had made a massive difference. They take an intervention approach called Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) that aims to raise awareness of sanitation and disease control and support the community in deciding how to deal with their sanitation needs.

I talked with Amenhi resident Alumesi, and she told me of the changes she’d seen in the health of her children and family since she invested in a toilet five years ago – “Before we were getting ill in our stomachs often, and not well enough to work and our children were always sick. Now we’re far healthier and more comfortable”.

Alumesi shares her toilet with others in the community who can’t yet afford a latrine, and the children we met were happy to show us the toilets in the village… as well as showing Steve (International Campaign Coordinator) how to play football.

And we also made time to try out a World’s Longest Toilet Queue! (Check out the pictures in the slideshow from a previous post). Wonder if this will be the most remote location of a Queue? A challenge for everyone I reckon!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Four days to change the world

End Water Poverty global campaigners have just got back to their respective towns, countries and continents after a very busy week in Ghana. It was brilliant - lively discussions and planning, sunshine and lots of Jollof rice!

We got together to discuss our successes, plans, strategies, direction and priorities over the next two years. It's amazing just how far the Global Framework for Action has come over the last year, and we're going to carry on campaigning to make it a complete success.

A key focus point in the near future is the Global Framework's first big step - the first High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation, being held in April 2010 in Washington DC. We'll be working hard to ensure key governments attend and take action to stop the crisis, including mass mobilisation across the world just a month later - The World's Longest Toilet Queue.

After that we'll be working with wider networks including GCAP to ensure the G8 and G20 make real progress, and then we'll have an opportunity to make change happen at the MDG Summit in September in New York. We'll also be working on water and sanitation as human rights.

It wasn't all looking forward into the future though, we took some time out to make a field visit to see the impact clean water and safe sanitation can have on a community - full blog report coming this week.

Here are some shots of the week - click through to find out more information about the pictures...and enjoy!

Launching the Queue in London

Tom Baker
Tom works for Tearfund, an End Water Poverty member, and is helping to organise an event for the World's Longest Toilet Queue on 22nd March in London. See how his plans develop here, and get involved too...

Fortunately London isn't short of great locations to serve as a backdrop for the UK's contribution to the Worlds Longest Toilet Queue, and at the moment, the group planning the event in the capital are salivating at the possibilities.

Should we hold it on Tower Bridge, in the shadow of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, outside Buckingham Palace (perhaps we could persuade the Queen to join the queue) or in Trafalgar Square with Lord Nelson on top of his column looking down on us?

We're negotiating with various authorities about the location, but whatever happens, we're going to do our best to try to win a prize of the best backdrop for a toilet queue! But what's in the background isn't the only thing that matters. We've also set a number of other objectives, here are two explained:

1 - It needs to have a political impact

With 2.5 billion people still waiting for the loo, we need to ensure our message reaches those who have the power to do something about it.

The 22nd is a Monday, and it isn't a great day to reach UK politicians, with many MPs still in their constituencies, so we need to be extra creative in coming up with way of ensuring they get the message. Add to the mix that it's likely we'll have a general election soon after the queue, so many politicians will be focused on getting re-elected.

But these are just obstacles to overcome and as a group we're determined to ensure that those representing the government at the High-Level Meeting in Washington are clear what the UK public want to see: Action on taps and toilets.

2 - We want to get our message out.

People directly taking part are important, but so are the thousands we plan to reach through the media.

Getting the attention of the UK media is notoriously difficult, and we know on 22nd March we're going to have to compete with a whole host of other stories, from celebrity arguments to political announcements. We're undeterred.

We're busy brainstorming ideas to come up with that 'special something' that will captivate the photographers and TV cameras, ensuring that our queue makes the headlines. Got any tips? Share them here...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

An invitation to Advocate and Participate!

Saskia Castelein, Programme Officer for Advocacy, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council

Greetings from Geneva!

The World's Longest Toilet Queue campaign is underway, and the WSSCC is proud to be partnering with End Water Poverty and Freshwater Action Network to support this momentous initiative. The WLTQ is not only a day of solidarity and support for safe sanitation and clean water for those in need, but also the start of a full campaign to urge politicians, governments, and key leaders to change the status quo and make better choices for citizens worldwide.

The WLTQ will be launched on World Water Day: 22 March 2010. The theme selected for this year is ''Communicating Water Quality Challenges and Opportunities", in order to raise the profile of water quality at the political level. This theme fits well with the ambitions and goals set forth by the WLTQ, especially regarding the first annual High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation in Washington D.C. on 23 April 2010.

It is time to prioritize sanitation and clean water, and encourage others to do the same. With the help of our dedicated members, our National WASH Coalitions in over 30 countries, and concerned partner organizations globally, we will make the WLTQ a success. Join the queue and advocate for these basic human rights!

For more information, visit our website at