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.

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