Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Keep Your Promises is launched in Zambia!

Jackson Mwenya, Executive Coordinator of VAREN in Zambia writes about the launch of the Keep Your Promises campaign

We launched the Keep the Promises campaign in Luapula province in Zambia at the end of August and called on our politicians to keep to their commitments on sanitation and water. We specifically called on them to keep the promises that the Minister of Local Government and Housing and the Minister of Finance and National Planning made during the Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting in April 2012 and we focused our activities on selected districts which are off track in achieving these targets.

Lack of access to safe water and sanitation in Zambia has greatly affected Luapula province. This area has extremely low levels of rural access to WASH services and has received little attention from donors compared to other provinces. There is still a gap between communities and government hindering dialogue on issues of water and sanitation challenges. Communities have not been given a platform to tell their leaders about the issues and leaders do not communicate with the people to find out about the challenges they are facing.

This problem has been addressed with the Keep Your Promises campaign, which has brought together local people, community based organisations and faith based organisations to raise awareness of the importance of local people's participation in local and national governance and of their right to monitor government performance against promises.

To start with, CSOs visited and interviewed local community members to tell them about the campaign and to find out what they think Members of Parliament and government officials should be doing to improve their access to safe sanitation and water. We spoke to women, children and disabled people and ensured that they led on this initiative and had key roles in the campaign.

CSOs were then called for an awareness meeting at which the government’s commitments were reviewed and discussed before the launch.

The day before the launch, a  live radio discussion was broadcast on KFM Community Radio Station during which two CSO representatives gave information about the government's commitments on sanitation and water and the areas where they are off track in keeping these promises and reaching their targets. We invited listeners to come to the launch the next day to hear directly  from government representatives.

Children played a key part in the launch day and the Anglican Boys Brigade and Majorettes stayed for the whole of the launch event! Children from Our Lady of Mercy School run by the Sisters of Mercy
were part of the advocacy team as they marched and sang and then presented a poem to call for safe water and better sanitation for all. It was so amazing!

Chief Chisunka who is the Chairperson of all Chiefs in Luapula province had this to say
during the launch:

"As a Chairperson of chiefs in the province, I am fully convinced that everyone in our province can have access to safe water and good sanitation because this is a province with a lot of water bodies such as Lake Mweru, Lake Bangweulu and Luapula river. I am calling on the government and especially our Members of Parliament to  ensure that water problems are resolved not only here in town but also in rural communities because water is life."

The Managing Director of Luapula Water and Sewerage Company, Mr. Sebastian Chilekwa added:

"Access to safe water in Luapula is bad because currently as a company we can only manage to service12% leaving 88% unserviced. The only solution to the problem is massive infrastructure investment by the government because these challenges are due to inadequate and dilapidated infrastructures. We have all these water bodies but without investment nothing can be done. That's why communities need to be proactive and lobby to their members of parliament for adequate sector financing."

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