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This blog was written by Virginia Kamowa, Senior Programme Officer for Global Advocacy at WSSCC. For feedback and questions, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We need to influence government processes by working with various line ministries to ensure integration of WASH in all areas of development.”
Hon. Jaqueline Amongin Member of Parliament (MP) and chair of Uganda Parliamentary WASH Forum.
Despite being among the youngest MPs in the Uganda parliament, Hon. Amongin is the most influential parliamentarian when it comes to elevating WASH in the country and beyond. She enthusiastically shared her passion for WASH advocacy at a recent Advocacy, Communications and Learning workshop that WSSCC organized in collaboration with IRC at the Speke Munyonyo resort in Uganda from 9th to 13th November 2015.
The workshop brought together WSSCC National Coordinators together with representatives from the Global Sanitation Fund and government of seven African Anglophone speaking countries. Participants from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda attended the workshop.
The objectives of the workshop included sharing WSSCC’s current priorities and future visions and to explore how national and global initiatives link with and reinforce this vision; secondly enhancing participants’ skills, tools and techniques to undertake strategic advocacy and media work in line with the already endorsed Strategic Engagement Plans; and thirdly sharing ideas and offer guidance around how to streamline the national Global Sanitation Fund programme learning and outcomes into the national engagement plans for high level advocacy.
Advocacy by Parliamentarians
One of the key areas participants were interested to learn and share experiences about was WASH advocacy to/with parliamentarians. It was for this reason that we thought it useful to invite Hon Jaqueline Amongin to share the experiences of the Uganda Parliamentary WASH Forum, on engaging in advocacy to influence policy/strategy change and government accountability in sustainable WASH service provision.
It is common knowledge that the Millennium Development Goals failed to meet its targets on Sanitation and Hygiene. However, we have an opportunity to make a difference with the ambitious and transformative Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which have sanitation water and hygiene flowing through them. The SDGs have a specific goal dedicated to WASH and of course various targets across the goals whose chances of full attainment is dependent on the attainment of targets on sanitation and hygiene and water. Yes, we can end poverty, end hunger, create healthy lives, provide quality education, attain gender equality, foster sustainable growth, reduce inequality and develop sustainable cities if we meet the targets on sanitation, hygiene and water. In other words, failure to achieve targets on goal 6 will have negative consequences on the progress that can be made on the above mentioned related areas. “No targets will be considered met unless met for all.” Hence collaboration and partnerships of various stakeholders is a prerequisite to ensuring that no one is left behind; prioritising the most vulnerable and the hardest to reach; and ensuring that issues of inequalities and scale are dealt with.
Legislators are a significant component of the many stakeholders that have to make realizing targets on sanitation, hygiene and a reality. As Hon. Jaqueline Amongin highlighted at the workshop in Uganda, MPs are important stakeholders because they represent people at the lowest levels and districts in the national parliament. According to her, Members of Parliament play a significant role because they are the ones who have to follow up and ensure implementation of all protocols signed at the global and national levels to ensure they are domesticated in a way that betters the lives of the people at the grassroots. “MPS have a mandate to advocate as they speak on behalf of people from the constituencies they represent” she said at the workshop.
The Uganda Parliamentary WASH Forum now has 85 members from just a few not long ago. Through their advocacy and lobbying of fellow members of parliament, the government and other stakeholders, they have seen tremendous changes which have included influencing various line ministries to prioritise WASH; influencing the Ministry of Health to have a specific budget allocation for WASH; moving a motion in parliament to ensure provision of emergency sanitary ware and facilities in all schools and more. In addition, the consistent advocacy initiatives have resulted in having coordination of sanitation and hygiene to be done by the office of the Prime Minister who is leader of government business in the country.
“We work with all line ministries. For example recently people were wondering what sanitation and hygiene has to do with Ministry of Works. But listen, we have managed to influence the Ministry of Works to include stopovers with toilets on all new roads in Uganda,” Hon Amongin
She eloquently elaborated that she realizes sanitation, hygiene and water issues affect most countries in Africa. Therefore, she intends to extend the work started in Uganda to all Africa. Currently she and colleagues from the Uganda WASH Forum are planning a Pan-African Parliamentary WASH summit to share lessons learnt from Uganda as well as other countries and form a cross Africa Parliamentary WASH movement that would significantly contribute to the achievement of the WASH targets of the SDGs. “I would like to see alliances of other parliaments of other countries in Africa,” she enthused.
She impressed upon participants at the workshop the need to engage leadership at all levels, including new members of parliament, ministers and the presidency. “Look at party manifestos and every key document. What do they say about WASH? Use information contained therein to hold duty bearers accountable. For example, the Uganda campaign manifesto for the ruling party mentions WASH as its number 3 priority issue. This is a good starting point for discussion and demanding accountability for WASH from the government.”
It was shared that parliamentarians have elevated WASH in Uganda through persistent advocacy. Lack of resources even though used as an excuse for non-action is not the biggest challenge, lack of planning is” she concluded.
All the workshop participants from the seven countries were amazed at the unprecedented passion for a member of parliament on WASH. They all tasked themselves to influence change in their own parliamentarians upon return. Hon. Amongin committed to supporting them with convincing their MPs to take upon WASH advocacy which she said is very important for achieving commitments made by national governments at various levels.