Rotary member Naana Agyemang-Mensah leads the WASH advocates from the Rotary clubs involved in the Rotary-USAID partnership in Ghana. With extensive experience in gender advocacy and WASH, Agyiemang-Mensah leads a team of 24 Rotary volunteers who received training in WASH advocacy and are commonly called Rotary WASH advocacy champions.
How do you define advocacy?
Advocacy can be defined in many ways, but for the purposes of this partnership, it is a process which aims at energizing (mobilizing, educating, giving skills, building capacity) and prodding entities (beneficiaries, program partners, duty bearers from the government) to elicit positive sustainable changes in the environmental, physical and mental health of the general populace.
When we get all these entities to play their respective roles effectively, we produce positive sustainable change.
What are the differences between your WASH advocacy work in the Rotary-USAID partnership and the advocacy work done by Rotary members in polio eradication?
Advocacy in Rotary’s polio eradication efforts is NOT the same as advocacy in the RI-USAID WASH partnership. The nature and extent of the key stakeholders’ participation is very different.
WASH Advocacy demands front-end (during the program design stage) and sustained (over the course of the program cycle) engagement with all stakeholders, to ensure proper understanding, buy-in, alignment, and execution of agreed roles and responsibilities.
WASH is serious business. It is multi-pronged in its positive effects on people’s lives and yields dividends that all Rotary members can be proud of.
A very important component of WASH services delivery is people empowerment because beneficiaries and service providers have to play their roles in order to sustain the improvements over a lifetime. So, we need more Rotary members to invest in community development as advocates.
What are goals of the WASH advocacy program in the partnership?
The goals are 1) creating awareness and building capacity for self-actualization on the part of community members; 2) conscientizing District Assembly officials to appreciate the value in paying attention to WASH issues; and 3) supporting other WASH Stakeholders to lobby the Government to support the WASH sector effectively.
It is our hope that over time, small amounts of support by Government officials (in the form of renewed interest in and attention to the monitoring of WASH services delivery) will result in some level of incremental increase of funding allocation to WASH.
What is the role of Rotary advocates in the Rotary/USAID WASH partnership?
They are educators who promote attitudinal and therefore behavioral change and build capacity for self- development in the communities. They ask relevant questions in order to get community members, partners and duty bearers to play their expected roles. They are catalysts for change.
What are some of the results that Rotary members advocates have achieved?
Advocates have been thrilled to observe that through their efforts:
- Many community men and women have realized their innate potentials as leaders and have offered themselves for training with a resolve to take needed actions on behalf of their communities. Many of them are preparing to lead engagements with District Assembly officials to discuss pressing community issues as they crop up.
- Committee members have accepted their roles as change leaders and monitor and evaluate their performance on their Community and School WASH committees regularly, with great interest and satisfaction with their progression on Participatory learning tools used for the purpose.
- Some households which had for years existed without toilets have constructed household toilets, so to speak, with the space of only a couple of months after being sensitized.
- Sensitization by Rotary advocates, working through local leaders, has resulted in cleaner environments in communities and schools.
Interview by Joseph Derr