Overview of the Campaign
Supported by WaterAid Liberia/Sierra Leone and the WASH Consortium, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Network (WASH-Net) is a CSO WASH advocacy network in Sierra Leone carrying out advocacy and campaigns to emphasize the need for social mobilization to lift WASH to a higher level of priority. WASH-Net, and its partners, saw the 2012 Presidential elections in Sierra Leone as a major opportunity to raise water and sanitation as election campaign issues, ensuring WASH issues were clearly prioritized in candidates’ development plans. The campaign was focused on:
1. Lobbying candidates and their political parties to make relevant WASH commitments
2. Providing citizens with information and platforms to engage candidates on WASH issues
The campaign was a nation-wide event in all 14 districts of the country promoting the campaign’s key WASH messages. The WASH Campaign targeted the various political candidates from the national to the council level. The campaign resulted in the signing of WASH pledge cards by candidates containing specific WASH commitments that CSOs are now able to monitor and follow-up with the new Government officials. The campaign also helped to raise the profile, visibility and prioritisation of WASH issues, contributing to the newly established Ministry for Water Resource.
Objectives of the Campaign
The objective of the campaign was to increase the political prioritisation for WASH in Sierra Leone to ensure accelerated service delivery of WASH Services throughout the country.
Key Outcomes of the Campaign
Specific outcomes of the campaign included:
- The signing of pledge cards by political parties placing WASH issues at the heart of their party’s manifestos and increasing the priority and visibility given to water and sanitation
- The bringing together of CSOs, the general public and duty bearers through constructive dialogue and shared platforms to discuss ways to tackle WASH
- A change in the political history of Sierra Leone with CSOs able to campaign and advocate on specific issues during elections
- The creation of a separate Ministry for Water Resources in the aftermath of the elections
Key Tools and Activities of the Campaign
The campaign used several key tools to advocate for WASH:
- Development of a WASH Manifesto with key WASH election asks
- Pledge cards with specific WASH commitments for candidates to sign
- Development of a briefing note on the key WASH issues (to share with media, politicians and citizens)
- Organising District WASH Forums bringing together candidates, citizens and the media
- Use of the media to promote the campaign’s messages (TV, radio, newspapers…)
Challenges faced + Lessons Learnt
Challenges faced in rolling out the campaign:
- Ø Election Pattern and Culture in Sierra Leone (voting based on ethnicity not issue-based)
- Ø Difficulty of getting candidates to make succinct, clear commitments on WASH
- Ø Elections are busy times – hard to get the right people to attend our forums
- Ø Demonstrate and convince all stakeholders of political neutrality of the campaign
- Ø Financial limitations in rolling out campaign throughout the country
- Importance of having strong and informed moderators to guide WASH Forum discussions
- Provide questions to candidates in advance of forums to increase meaningful contributions
- Sharing a briefing note on key WASH issues with media and citizens to elevate understanding and quality of debate
- Early planning to maximise all the key election opportunities and get buy-in.
Tips for other campaigners
- Ø Elections are busy time for politicians, so when given the time and opportunity to engage with one – clarity and to-the-point communication / messaging is crucial.
- Ø The run up to an election is a great time to talk to candidates – they need your vote so they will listen to what you have to say.
- Ø Support your advocacy talk with briefs/notes that you leave with the politicians.
- Ø Remember to note that you are not a campaigning/propaganda machine for a political party – therefore never destroy your good issue-based campaign by creating suspicion from other political parties.
- Ø Issue-based election advocacy can bring a whole lot more change when properly structured and targeted well.
- Ø A well capacitated CSO community with clear focus and understanding of the issues is vital for the legitimacy and momentum of the campaign.
For further information on the campaign please contact:
Musa Ansumana Soko, Chairman, WASH-Net Sierra Leone, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org