By Okechukwu Umelo
For a minute, I thought I was attending the Oscars or Grammys. The 2015 AfricaSan awards, held at the King Fahd Palace in Dakar on 26 May, was a night of glitz and glamour. A red carpet was rolled out to welcome participants who enjoyed a gala dinner and vibrant music and theater performances from local artists.
But all the fanfare was for a very worthy cause: to celebrate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) leaders who have made major strides and broken down barriers in WASH across Africa.
And the winners are:
- Le Service National de l’Hgyiène (National Hygiene Service of the Government of Senegal), HYGIENE AWARD
- Caitlyn Butler, RESEARCH & TECHNICAL INNOVATION AWARD
- Maji na Ufanisi (Swahili for ‘Water and Development’), YOUTH AWARD
- L’Office national de l’eau et de l’assainissement (the National Water and Sanitation Office of Burkina Faso), IMPACT AT SCALE AWARD
- Water and Sanitation Association of Zambia, INTEGRITY AWARD
- House of Chiefs of Zambia, LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP AWARD
Read on to find out why these champions won their awards!
Le Service National de l’Hgyiène, the National Hygiene Service of the Government of Senegal, won the HYGIENE AWARD for its role in elevating the status of hygiene in the villages of Senegal. In partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the agency carried out a number of activities to encourage local communities to improve sanitation, wash their hands with soap, improve water quality and treat potable water at home. With leadership from the agency, in 2014, over 1 million people were sensitized on good hygiene practices and community-led total sanitation (CLTS) was carried out in 420 villages, out of which 287 are now open-defecation free (ODF).
Dr. Caitlyn Butler, Assistant Professor, College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, won the RESEARCH & TECHNICAL INNOVATION award for her work in developing technical solutions for sanitation services and products to make them affordable, reliable and sustainable. She received two competitive grants from the Gates Foundation to develop a microbial fuel cell latrine that directly converts human waste into electricity. Built with community resources, the microbial fuel cell latrine is a low cost, low maintenance toilet that reduces disease, helps preserve the environment, enhances human dignity and meets the sanitation needs of rural communities in developing countries.
Maji na Ufanisi (Swahili for ‘Water and Development’), a WASH NGO in Kenya, won the YOUTH AWARD for its work in supporting youths in Mombasa, Kenya to develop income generating activities in the WASH sector. The NGO provided youths with opportunities to salvage damaged market toilets and build thriving, independently managed facilities that serve over 20,000 market users every day. The NGO’s work utilizes an entrepreneurial model focused on running hygiene and sanitation services as a business. Youths are organized into different groups that are trained in business management, commercial marketing and behavior change and communications approaches. As a result, the youths managing these sanitation services have been able to improve their income and livelihoods through the financial process generated from the business, while also helping to raise the standard of sanitation and hygiene in their communities. The youths are making combined a total of $12,500 a month.
L’Office national de l’eau et de l’assainissement, the National Water and Sanitation Office of Burkina Faso, won the IMPACT AT SCALE AWARD. As the urban water supply and sanitation provider in Burkina Faso, the office serves approximately 42 cities and towns across the country. The key to its success has been the Government’s commitment to reform, which includes the successful implementation of an innovative performance based service approach, demonstrating that it is possible to establish a well performing public water utility in a poor and developing country, when there is governance that ensures autonomy, transparency and accountability.
The award was presented by Chris Williams, Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
The Water and Sanitation Association of Zambia (WASAZA) won the INTEGRITY AWARD for serving as a strong advocate for the development, effective management and scale up of water and sanitation technologies in urban, peri-urban and rural communities across Zambia. Since 2013, WASAZA has in collaboration with partners organized a series of integrity management workshops for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Zambia’s WASH sector, to enable them to reduce costs related to non-integrity, as well as boost performance, become more reliable in the eyes of clients and make their business more robust to handle reputational and legal risks. In 2014, six integrity management workshops were organized for a total of 30 SMEs in local communities. As a result of its success, this workshop has been demonstrated at the national level.
The House of Chiefs of Zambia won the LOCAL GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP AWARD. Since the introduction of CLTS in Zambia, the House of Chiefs has worked hard to promote access to adequate sanitation and hygiene practices. Its efforts, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, as well as other ministries and partners, contributed immensely to mobilizing communities during CLTS triggering sessions and follow ups. The House of Chiefs has significantly helped UNICEF implement a successful project launched in 2011 and aimed at helping three million people gain access to adequate sanitation. Their involvement has contributed to the unprecedented construction of household latrines and increased installation and usage of handwashing facilities. During the project, chiefs have effectively utilized their influence on their subjects to stimulate behavior change. By the end of 2014, 2.25 million people in 67 districts gained access to adequate sanitation. By 2015, 4,800 villages and 10 chiefdoms were ODF.
About the AfricaSan Awards:
Launched at the AfricaSan conference in 2008 and developed by the African Ministers’ Council on Water, the awards recognize outstanding efforts and achievements in sanitation and hygiene in Africa which result in large-scale, sustainable behavior change and tangible impacts. The aim is to raise the profile of sanitation and hygiene by drawing attention to successful approaches, promoting excellence in leadership, innovation and sanitation and hygiene improvements in Africa.
The awards are open to all individuals and institutions working in the sanitation and hygiene sector across Africa. These include regulatory and oversight bodies, ministries, local governments, civil society, training and research institutions, the private sector, the media and schools.