Now hear this: Radio and women take top honours in WASH Media competition

Date: 14th August 2008

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For being the best of more than 140 entries submitted from 40 countries, the winning journalists will travel to Stockholm, Sweden, for the 17-23 August World Water Week, where they will participate in sessions and collect their awards in front of leading water, sanitation, environment and development experts. The biannual competition is sponsored by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

True passion, commitment and journalistic excellence radiated from the television, print, radio and web entries, said the chair of a nine-member international jury, noted television documentary maker Robert Lamb of OnePlanet Pictures, UK. The competition featured high-quality journalism from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Central, South and Southeast Asia.

“Public awareness built through the media paves the way for the global community to care and encourages decision-makers at all levels to act,” said Mr. Lamb. “We should give due credit to these journalists who go  after the all-important ‘WASH story’ as well as to their editors and producers and to the media organisations who give voice to people and issues that all too often are surrounded by silence.” Last month, a new report from the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund stated that 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation and nearly 900 million people to safe drinking water. As eloquently reported by the WASH journalists, behind these numbers are human beings with real lives, faces, homes without toilets and wells polluted by human or chemical waste.

Thus, in a world where holidays in space co-exist with preventable diarrhoeal diseases that kill 1.5 million children a year, those with the power to improve the lives of people — and protect the environment — can’t feign ignorance when confronted with high quality investigative journalism. The work of this year’s WASH Media Award winners has helped to raise awareness of the significance and impact of water, sanitation and hygiene services, promote coverage of WASH issues in the local and national media of developing countries, and encourage a sustainable relation between the media and WASH sector stakeholders.

The jury citations were:

  • Winfred Onyimo: for journalistic excellence which takes the listener straight to the heart of Kibera slum through simple yet descriptive language and poignant use of sound and personal testimony. “Disease in a bottle” is a powerful tale whose message stays with the audience long after the piece is over.
  • Salome Gregory: for journalistic excellence where simple and eloquent words brought a village to life and showed how closely connected water and education are for Africa’s children. “This is Same, where fetching water means children miss classes” exhibits a high level of journalistic professionalism in addressing water and its gender-related issues, and was nuanced, believable and refreshingly convincing.
  • Cátia Toffoletto: for journalistic excellence in “Water, the waste condemning São Paulo,” a perfectly structured piece with accurate and relevant information, presented in a fresh style. It has the quality of touching the audience with evocative language and beautiful narrative.
  • Claudine Efoa Atohoun: for journalistic excellence in “Dassa la commune des 41 collines,” which points to the scarcity of drinking water with conviction and sensitivity. Clearly structured, the reportage distinguishes itself by pertinent analysis and a well-chosen sound atmosphere, and offers the listener a high-quality radio journey.

Also being honoured in this year’s competition are second-place winners Yamikani Mwando, Zimbabwe; Tamara Hendel, Argentina; and Dieudonné Soubeaga, Burkina Faso; and third place honorees Budiman Arif, Indonesia; Julia Fabiola Torres Lopez, Peru; and Euloge Aïdasso, Benin.

The results of the competition, held during the International Year of Sanitation 2008, showed that even in today’s multimedia world, “old-fashioned” radio remains both a popular and unique medium for transmitting information, particularly in developing countries and where literacy rates are lower. The results — both the winners and the subjects they covered — also showcased the critically important role of women in sustainable development: teaching their children how to wash their hands with soap; walking great distances to fetch water so that their daughters get an education; or reporting as journalists on the unclean conditions in which millions of women, children and men around the world must live.

“By sponsoring this competition, WSSCC and SIWI recognise and support the crucial role of the media in attracting attention to and positively influencing the WASH crisis,” says Mr. Anders Berntell, SIWI Executive Director. Mr. Jon Lane, Executive Director of WSSCC, added: “Journalists who tell the untold WASH stories work hard and in difficult conditions. They fear not to speak of the taboo of shit and to take the lead in suggesting actions which contribute to demand for toilets and improved lives.”

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