Jennifer Williams, from the International Secretariat, is at the WSSCC Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in Mumbai to meet End Water Poverty partners and members, and to spread the word about the Crisis Talks and World Walks for Water and Sanitation 2012!
What a week! As a new staff member at the End Water Poverty secretariat, I have been incredibly excited to come to Mumbai to meet our members and partners, to liaise with experts in the water and sanitation sector and to join discussions about advocacy, communications and the importance of grassroots civil society voices in WASH advocacy.
Working on the advocacy stall here has been a great opportunity to meet many inspiring and engaged advocates and has made me hugely excited about my role with the End Water Poverty coalition. I’ve been taking the opportunity to tell a variety of people and organisations visiting the stall about the Crisis Talks taking place around World Toilet Day next month. At these events, people affected by poor water and sanitation will give testimonies on life without these basic services and make recommendations on the way forward to attending politicians, media and civil society leaders. I have been hearing about the unique and exciting Crisis Talks already being planned – including one being held in the slums in Malawi, bringing politicians and decision makers directly to the issue being discussed!
Highlights from the conference include a breakout session entitled ‘How to win hearts and minds through WASH advocacy’ where we discussed the ingredients that make campaigning and lobbying successful, from knowing the political scene to communicating the messages in an eye-catching and engaging way. I presented about the Crisis Talks and the World Walks for Water and Sanitation – and was particularly delighted when almost every person in the room raised their hand to say they would like to take part in 2012!
A side-event about the Sanitation and Water for All partnership also proved interesting – explaining what the SWA is, what it’s trying to achieve and updating us on preparations for the 2012 High-Level Meeting. Don’t worry if you couldn’t make it though as our new SWA briefing sheets give you all the latest news and updates!
A visit to Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia, highlighted the public health issues that many residents here face. Our guide informed us as we passed a small block of ten toilets that it serves over 1,700 people –and many of the statistics are much worse. With such poor facilities, adults and children are forced to urinate and defecate in the local river resulting in the spreading of disease. The shortage of clean drinking water for the estimated 1.4 billion residents exacerbates the problem further and it is clear that much more needs to be done to achieve the goal of sanitation and water for all.
I leave Mumbai tomorrow morning feeling positive and excited about the difference the End Water Poverty coalition can make after meeting our engaged and inspiring members and partners. And I also leave feeling determined to work together to push Development and Finance Ministers from both the Global North and South to attend the High-Level Meeting in April 2012 and take action to prevent people in slums like Dharavi being denied a basic human right – clean water and a safe toilet.