Thursday, 21 July 2011

Someone new joins the sanitation gang...

We're in Kigali this week for AfricaSan as you may know, with a great array of civil society organisations, ministers, academic institutions and companies interested in making a difference to the sanitation crisis being faced in Africa.

And yesterday, a new kid joined the block... and in a courageous fashion! With an event at AfricaSan "Reinventing the Toilet", new grants and an announcement of advocacy capacity, the Gates Foundation has burst onto the sanitation scene in a big way.

The Foundation has worked on water and sanitation projects for a long time, but this feels like a real step change in their engagement with the sector, with new capacity working on advocacy and policy, which of course we were eager to learn of.

During the event, speakers who included Frank Rijsberman, Head of the Foundation's Toilet Team, outlined the innovative approach to the sanitation crisis. You can take a look at this video which explains more:

End Water Poverty is really pleased that the Foundation has already joined the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership, which sends a great message out to the sector and beyond. I asked a question of the panel on their advocacy strategy towards the SWA, and happily Frank expressed a clear wish to work with and learn from others in the sector to build their strategy and he reaffirmed the commitment that the Foundation will attend next year's crucial High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation in Washington DC. He also introduced me to his new staff member Sara Rogge, Policy and Advocacy Officer, who later talked through some strategic countries they're looking to work with more closely as they go forward in their advocacy work.

It's great that more organisations are talking and working on sanitation. As they find the best ways to make change on the sanitation crisis, movements like End Water Poverty can share learning with them and link them into current debates as well as ensuring the voices of our members and CSO partners are an integral part of their work. It adds to the momentum building around the issue and works to ensure that the crisis cannot be ignored by decision makers in the north and south. New energy and innovation also flows in, as well as bringing in a set of exciting new people like Sara and Frank to work with. Welcome to the sanitation gang!

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