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Published on: 01/02/2021

The Hague, 01 February 2021 – IRC together with its Watershed empowering citizens partners launches “Voices for Water” - a global campaign calling on NGOs, governments, and funders to prioritise resources to support civil society organisations (CSOs) as a means of accelerating progress on national water and sanitation goals and global Sustainable Development Goal 6. 

Water is a human right. “There is no reason why people should be excluded from clean and safe water, sanitation and hygiene”, says Mercy Amokwandoh from Ghana. Yet they are.   

The campaign is produced by a Dutch agency BRANDOUTALOUD and features citizens from Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mali, and Uganda. These citizens ask us all to do what they do every day, raise your #VoicesforWater. The campaign will be live from 1 to 12 February and promoted across social channels globally and by partners in focus countries across the world.   

More than 2.2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services, over 2.5 billion do not have safely managed sanitation services and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities (JMP report).  

Through its campaign, Watershed aims to support efforts to ensure that by 2030, each person in every community, has access to sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, and that their district government is improving and protecting the sources of their water. Over five years, Watershed has provided support in the fight to realise change in budgets, policies, and attitudes  – empowering citizens to raise their voices for water and emboldening them with the evidence and skills to defend them. 

"Our fight is not yet over. Our fight has only just begun and we have but 9 years left to achieve fundamental human rights. So there is still time to raise our #VoicesforWater and continue the battle", Kitty van der Heijden, Director-General for International Cooperation
"Civil society can be the motor of development and can deliver the change we want to see quickly. Because raising #VoicesforWater is not only worth it, it's extremely effective", says Catarina Fonseca, Director of the Watershed programme and IRC's Associate.  

Join Watershed in raising your #VoicesforWater

  • Go to the Voices for Water campaign page  and watch all the videos.   
  • Read the stories of change and follow the links for sources of inspiration, advice, and support.  
  • Join us and share the campaign on social media using the hashtag #VoicesForWater.   
  • Work with us to raise your voice for water. Get in touch to let us know if you would like to know and learn more, or partner with us.   

Watch our global campaign teaser in English and French.  

Our latest issue of Amplify is dedicated to the campaign, read it here

Editor’s notes 

The Watershed empowering citizens programme was a strategic partnership between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) IRC, Simavi, Wetlands International and Akvo. Between 2016 and 2020, Watershed made significant improvements in the governance and management of WASH) services and the water resources on which they draw. 

The programme was active in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mali and Uganda as well as at the international level. It strengthened the capacity of national and local civil society to advocate and hold local and national governments and other WASH and water resource management duty bearers to account. This has led to many meaningful improvements in the quality and sustainability of WASH services in these countries. The programme focused on giving a strong voice to marginalised groups including women, those with disabilities and nomadic communities.

Over the past years, through a series of interventions, from district to national level, the programme made sure that evidence, knowledge and lessons from district-level interventions in target countries were translated upwards to influence governance and policy at national, regional and international levels. Change in policy and practice was achieved by applying evidence-based advocacy by Watershed partner organisations and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the target countries. 

This unique initiative dedicated to evidence-based advocacy has a story to tell and advice to share. Voices for Water aims to support people in raising awareness of how WASH works and how they have a say in the decisions that affect them encouraging them to:

Campaign supporters

Kitty van der Heijden , Director-General for International Cooperation at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Sandra Pellegrom SDG Coordinator of the Netherlands

Nathalie Seguin, General Coordinator of the Freshwater Action Network Mexico (FAN-Mex)

Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs at Kingdom of the Netherlands

Bart Romijn Director of Partos

Sandra Catarina Fonseca, Director of the Watershed empowering citizens programme

Watershed partners

About IRC  

At IRC we believe in a world where water, sanitation and hygiene services are fundamental utilities that everyone is able to take for granted. We are not a traditional charity. We strongly believe that vital public services should be funded by the systems that support them, not by aid or one-off gifts. Through collaboration and the active application of our expertise, we work with governments, service providers and international organisations to turn this vision into reality. For good. 

We work in 8 countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Niger, Mali and Uganda. Our offices are staffed and led entirely by locals who are deeply embedded in local networks and committed to driving lasting change and improving the lives of one million people. We use that work to influence national governments in order to get services to a million people. Globally we champion an approach to change the reality of 2 billion people. And we are on track to reach the first million by 2030. See how: 

About Akvo 

Akvo creates open source, internet and mobile software and sensors. It works with those that improve infrastructure and services, for disadvantaged populations. Akvo encourages and enables organisations to capture useful data in better ways, and provides training to improve skills in gathering, mapping and visualising data over time. Akvo helps partners integrate and analyse their data with our sources, to improve understanding of complex situations. Akvo tools also improve reporting, communication, and collaboration, by making it easy to publish and exchange data to improve performance and build understanding and support for approaches, projects or programmes. Akvo also advocates the full adoption of open-source and open-data standards in the international development community. See for more  

About Simavi 

Simavi realises structural improvement to the health conditions of people in marginalised communities in Africa and Asia since 1925. Simavi invests in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) because these basic services are vital for people to be able to lead a healthy life, build a better existence and find a way out of poverty. Therefore, Simavi strives for a world in which basic health is accessible for all. Simavi aims to structurally improve the basic health of ten million people by 2020. Simavi works on this mission by collaborating closely with civil society organisations to build capacity and create structural, lasting change. See for more  

About Wetlands  

Wetlands International Wetlands International seeks to improve human well-being and local livelihoods through wise use of wetlands. Many of the world’s poorest communities depend on wetland services and resources like fish, irrigation, water for livestock, sanitation, and transport. Partnering with a broad range of development, civil society and community-based organisations, Wetlands International helps communities manage wetlands while enhancing their income and well-being. Wetlands International offers training modules on climate adaptation and the links between wetlands management and poverty reduction. To learn more 

Contact details IRC  

Evita Rozenberg
M +31 6 289 15 250
T +31 70 3044060

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