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Fourth discussion on water: promoting household sanitation in rural areas; a concern shared by journalists

Published on: 17/07/2012

On Friday 29 June 2012, WASH sector professionals and journalists gathered at Sidwaya (Hebdo newspaper from Ouagadougou) for the Fourth Round of discussions on water – Palabres d’eau. With Abu-bakr Adiz, Director General of Editions Sidwaya, serving as the activity’s Chairperson, attendees discussed the role journalists can play in promoting domestic sanitation in rural areas.

 

Noting that journalists have the capacity to influence public opinion, the choice of water as the focus of the Sidwaya’s Fourth Round of discussions was not fortuitous. In rethinking the role journalists could play in promoting household sanitation, journalists were considered ‘opinion leaders’ capable of bringing changes in behaviour and awareness on sanitation problems.

As part of the introduction, selected clips from the speech of Prime Minister Luc Adolphe Tiao and the Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, Laurent Sedego were shown as part of a video presentation. Wearing his ‘information professional hat’, the Prime Minister encouraged journalists to undertake more activities linked to education and awareness. According to the Prime Minister, journalists have the responsibility to contribute significantly in effecting behavioural changes in rural areas. The inability to do so, otherwise, will result in achieving minimal impact despite the big investments that continue to be made towards building latrines.

Complementing the Prime Minister’s advocacy, Laurent Sedego added that journalists will need to go beyond awareness-raising. According to the Minister, journalists may also want to consider contributing financially in constructing latrines in rural areas. For the Minister, doing so constitutes an act of solidarity for their own families who have stayed in the village for them. They may not have the means to buy latrines.

In the discussions that followed, many journalists did not completely share in the Minister’s views, especially with regard to the financial contribution scheme proposed by the Minister. According to one group, their meagre salaries restrict them from investing in the construction of latrines. On the other hand it was felt by some that like any other person, journalists must be able to make sacrifices, thus contributing financially in improving rural household sanitation.

Despite these differences, the journalists who attended the meeting were unanimous in voicing their commitment towards contributing to behavioural change. By undertaking diverse activities that promote and deepen understanding on sanitation – through information dissemination, awareness-raising, inquiry, criticism and debate – the journalists reasserted their commitment in positively influencing public opinion. They add: “This question should always be present in the news and in political agendas. Only when that becomes the case, then can significant change take place.” We invite you, dear reader, to share your suggestions on raising awareness with journalists in Burkina Faso by leaving a comment after this article here (Original article in French)

By: Nourou-Dhine Salouka and Juste Nansi

Comment from the blog: What type of information should journalists share in order to help take the water and sanitation sector forward? Particularly, how can journalists effectively raise awareness on the use of latrines within Burkina Faso’s rural population?