Benin: when voices of the people meet political will

Date: 9th November 2010

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When it comes to successful sanitation policies, André Toupé, WSSCC National Coordinator for Benin, has no doubts – giving voice to the beneficiaries is the key. And so it is, through the ‘Blue Book’ initiative — a process and report — launched by the International Secretariat for Water and supported by the National WASH Coalition. The Blue Book initiative is coordinated through a National Committee, chaired by Mr. Toupé, and a Secretariat, both including former ministers, members of parliament, local, national and international NGOs, local governments, mayors, and others.

The initiative gives people the opportunity to evaluate their government’s efforts on sanitation and hygiene situations in each of Benin’s 12 departments. The Blue Book was presented at the World Water Forum in Istanbul in March 2009 and the next step is to set up local projects that, based on the book’s findings, will lead to better communal technical empowerment to respond to demand for water supply, sanitation and hygiene services. A corresponding advocacy campaign by the WASH Coalition will encourage the government to allocate more financial and human resources to sanitation, hygiene and health. Local governments are in turn invited to integrate sanitation, hygiene and water programmes in their communal development plans, and then look for funding to implement them.

“The timing is right for targeting the government, and advocacy efforts are paying off as the political will is becoming more and more apparent,” observed Mr. Toupé. He noted that in 2008 a National Sanitation Day was declared and celebrated a second time this year on 15 April. The first edition concentrated on hand washing, while the second one emphasized food hygiene, with a massive awareness raising campaign organized in Cotonou’s food market and continuing through various media such as radio campaigns.

Another direction of the WASH Coalition’s activities is the creation of a parliamentarians network designed to influence the laws’ adequacy on WASH issues. Discussions are in progress with several MPs, together with the President of the Laws Commission, among others to update the national Hygiene Code, which dates to 1985 and needs to be updated and adapted to new situations and tools, as well as for decentralization purposes. The network will update MPs on sanitation and hygiene issues, problems and opportunities, to raise their awareness on the situation of their fellow citizens, to organize field trips, and to inform them about international commitments that can motivate them to take action.

For more information contact André Toupé, WSSCC National Coordinator for Benin, at andretoupe@yahoo.fr.

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