By Okechukwu Umelo
“The discussion between you can fertilize thinking,” said Chris Williams, Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) at the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) learning and sharing event in Dakar, Senegal. “In this room, we have the answers,” he continued.
The event was held as part of various preparation activities for the fourth AfricaSan conference in Dakar. It gathered GSF programme managers and teams from across the globe, as well as WSSCC national coordinators, implementation partners and sanitation and hygiene specialists within the GSF network, to discuss cross-cutting opportunities and challenges related to implementing GSF programmes.
In his address, Mr. Williams stated:
“How can we support countries to get to that next level? Pure exchanges and technological platforms are key. We have a technological challenge as well as a structural challenge to overcome, so that information is available to everybody.”
Highlighting one key added value of WSSCC, he said:
“One of the most beautiful things about WSSCC is that we can surf between NGO and government; we can slide between the two – both as the GSF and as National Coordinators. This is a very powerful strength that we need to utilize. The only way you are going to achieve scale and equity is if you surf between these two areas.”
Activities included a country programme fair, where various GSF-supported programmes set up booths around the meeting room and presented to small groups in 15 minute intervals. David Shimkus, GSF Programme Director, also presented on the GSF objectives, results and outlook.
Additionally, WSSCC National Coordinators who were participating in a separate workshop at the same time joined GSF colleagues for a session to discuss how the relationship and collaboration between National Coordinators (NCs) and GSF programme teams could be improved.
Strengthening collaboration between NCs and GSF programmes
NCs from Benin, Cambodia, India, Madagascar, Malawi and Tanzania gave presentations on their activities and experiences.
Wilhelmina Malima, the National Coordinator in Tanzania, said: “WSSCC has country engagement strategies in the countries, so I have clear key issues that link the NC with the GSF. We have specific zonal learning forums where we capture information on the districts GSF is being implemented. In addition, I work closely with UMATA, the GSF programme, on case study development, specifically to develop a protocol for equity integration.”
She continued: “WSSCC is part of the Development Partners Group in Tanzania. Having this seat, the NC has played the role in making sure partners understand the work of the WSSCC and GSF. The NC worked closely with the GSF to organize the first menstrual hygiene management learning forum. With the influence of the NC we managed to get the Member of Parliament who is now the Deputy Minister of Education to drive this agenda.”
The joint meeting between National Coordinators and GSF programme teams ended with small groups writing up and submitting recommendations on how to improve collaboration.
Feedback from participants
Other activities in the afternoon included thematic presentations on open-defecation free sustainability, community-led total sanitation (CLTS) in large villages, hygiene beyond handwashing and sanitation financing.
Participants had many opportunities to provide comments and feedback.
Daniel Kurao, the GSF Programme Manager in Kenya said:
“For many years we have cried that the profile of sanitation and hygiene is low. But I think the GSF programmes are unique because they have made sanitation and hygiene not a lesser child anymore, but a big child. So it gives us an opportunity to sing a song that has a chorus of sanitation and hygiene in every country.”
A delegate from Nigeria referred to how being ODF helped a community contain a case of cholera. Adding to this, Professor Robert Chambers, of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) said: “Of the 80 ODF communities in Liberia, through CLTS, none of them had Ebola.”
The event also included a testimonial from Senior Chief Mwadzama, a local leader from Malawi, who said:
“Before the [GSF-supported] project came we didn’t know anything about using a pit latrine – we were defecating in the bush. Now we are defecating in the toilet because of the hygiene project. When project facilitators were not able to follow up I went on my own using a bicycle to do the follow ups. I encouraged all my followers to make sure they have a pit latrine. Though we have reached ODF status I continue to make sure we maintain it.”
The event wrapped up with participants writing up recommendations on how to improve GSF programme design, learning and sharing going forward. The inputs will be analyzed by the GSF secretariat team in Geneva and used for the planning of another learning event towards the end of the year.
Mr. Shimkus noted: “We want to make sure our programmes are deeply integrated in supporting national programmes. We don’t want to act as just a project that ends and there’s no continuation. Core to our work is sustainability of behavior change, leaving behind an enabling environment, creating universal access and addressing issues of equity and gender.”
Noting that the learning and sharing event exceeded expectations, Mr. Shimkus added: “There is a lot of knowledge in this room as we have seen. Sharing and learning is of absolute importance to us, and as the GSF we intend on facilitating that even more.”
Find out more about the Global Sanitation Fund and its country programmes on the WSSCC website.