WOFAN marks 2011 world Water Day in Shagari LGA PDF Print E-mail

 

USAID-NIGERIA & Women Farmers Advancement Network- WOFAN mark 2011 world Water Day in Shagari LGA of Sokoto state- Nigeria

 

Ordinarily, World Water Day means very little to the ordinary man on the streets. And, it is not because he does not know the life-giving or life-saving importance of water. Perhaps more than anybody else, the ordinary man knows that water is life. And, because clean, safe drinking water is a scarce commodity in many Nigerian communities, the ordinary Nigerian spends a considerable part of his everyday life searching for clean, safe water. So, for him, the importance of water is multiple: he needs it to survive; and he must work hard to have it.

 

 

This is why World Water Day which is celebrated every March 22 should mean a lot to the ordinary man. And, this is why taking water and sanitation campaigns to the door-step of the ordinary man is of critical importance to any success in the sector. It is also why the 2011 World Water Day celebration in Shagari, the headquarters of Shagari Local Government Area of Sokoto State has remained a reference point in WASH campaigns in Sokoto state since it was celebrated in March 2011.     

The 2011 World Water Day celebration  event was put together by Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), in line with the theme of the 2011 celebration,  “spotlight and encourage government, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the challenges of urban water management” across the state. In addition, the celebration was used to flag-off the first phase of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project co-funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and WOFAN in five local governments in Sokoto state.  It was also used to distribute hygiene and sanitation materials provided by USAID/WOFAN  to selected schools/clinic facilities in five  selected local government areas(LGAs)  in the state. As early as 9am  large turn out of  traditional rulers , religious leaders, scores of ordinary citizens, school pupils , women and youth groups  from across the state started arriving the Magaji Bello Model primary School venue of the World Water Day to witness and participate in the 2011 world water Day.

 

 

The enthusiasm was probably fired by the sensitization and mobilization efforts as well as training sessions which preceded the event. Malam Muhammad Aliyu, one of the many community members who attended a mobilization campaign held by WOFAN in Sokoto earlier in the month recalled that he became interested in the WASH project after he attended the mobilization campaign.

He said, “These days, there are many organizations in Sokoto that are dealing with ordinary citizens like me.  But WOFAN seems to have a different approach to many of our problems. When they invited us to Sokoto for the mobilization campaign, they told us that they are going to drill boreholes and build modern latrines in our schools and communities. But they emphasized that the facilities would be ours and we have to make them work if we want to improve the way we live.

“They told us they would teach us how to maintain the facilities and work with us to help ourselves. They did not stop at just talking to us, they taught us how to make concrete slabs for our household toilets and how to repair and maintain the boreholes they are going to drill. So you see; they are serious. With the way they are approaching our water and sanitation problems, we have hope that our days of worry are almost over. This is why we have come here today. We know what WOFAN is doing and we are eager to work with them to make our lives better.”

It was not only the adults that were enthusiastic about the World Water Day. Children also turned out in their hundreds to participate in the events. They did so, not just as spectators on the fringes of the field; they were active participants in events which would remain indelible in their memories for a long time to come.

The children had had the importance of water, hygiene and sanitation reinforced earlier in the year through several activities championed by WOFAN. It had all started with short lectures and presentations on WASH in the schools which are to benefit in the WASH project. Then, Environmental Health Clubs (EHCs) had been formed with pupils selected by the schools’ health masters as members.

 

 

Though almost every pupil had wanted to be a member of the EHCs, initial membership was kept at 30 (15 boys and 15 girls). This did not dampen the enthusiasm of the children however as many looked forward to having their better days in school with access to safe drinking water as well as better personal hygiene and sanitation.  So, all the children who had the opportunity of representing their schools at the World Water Day were excited: school was just about to get better. And, there was an unmistakable feeling in the air that the 2011 World Water Day was the beginning of those better days in school.

 

For members of the EHCs in Shagari LGAs however, there was another reason to be excited. They all made presentations at the events. Husseini, one of the EHC members, captured the mood of the pupils succinctly when he noted that the World Water Day was especially important for the children in the benefiting communities.

“Getting water for domestic use is very difficult in our community. And, we the children are the ones who bear the brunt of the hardships because we have to walk long distances and queue for many hours to get safe drinking water. But from all the things we have heard and learnt since WOFAN came, we are certain that most of our water problems will be taken care of. So, as we attend this water day (ranar ruwa), we believe it is the beginning of good things to come”, he enthused.

On her part, Amina, another member of one of the EHCs in Shagari LGA, noted that she was more excited about the VIP Latrines to be built in her school and other schools in the community. According to her, it is always difficult for girls to take care of their personal hygiene if there are no toilets. And, because many schools don’t have toilets, she said she and her friends are forced to go home to use the toilet or even avoid school completely because of lack of toilets.

She said, “You know, boys don’t have problems urinating or defecating on any available piece of land. But it is not the same for girls. We need more privacy. And because we don’t have toilets in the school, we normally go home during school hours to ease ourselves or even stay at home because there are no toilets. But with this new project, my friends and I are very happy.

“We won’t have to walk long distances to get water again when the boreholes are completed. And, we can stay in school without worrying about our personal hygiene once the toilets are built. This is why we are happy today. And as a member of my school’s EHC, I would be teaching my friends and members of my community the importance of personal hygiene and sanitation as well as the dangers of open defecation. We presented some of those messages in the drama sketch which our EHC did at today’s event. Today is special and we cannot forget it.”

It was not just the children and the ordinary folk that found the day unforgettable. Former President Shehu Shagari and Alhaji Isa Sahabi Gada, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) sent representatives to lead proceedings while the Commissioners of Education and Women affairs took time off a very busy campaign tour to grace the occasions.

After the executive Director of WOFAN, Hajia Salamatu Garba kick-started the day with her welcome address, other dignitaries, including the representative of former President Shehu Shagari, Local Government Chairman, traditional and religious leaders as well as officials from USAID and other USAID implementing partners also spoke about the importance of the WASH project. Then, the children had their day by making special presentations on WASH.

WESCOM members who had been trained on slab construction and hand pump maintenance also demonstrated skills learnt by constructing slabs and coupling hand pumps to the delight of a very appreciative audience.


 

 

As the day rolled to a befitting climax, the Sokoto State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Hajia Kulu Abubakar Nuhu was honored as the Ambassador for Water and Sanitation for Sokoto state and the representative of the First Lady of Sokoto state. In her acceptance speech, she promised to lead WOFAN’s efforts to improve access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation.

The day ended with the presentation of hand pump repair kits to the 26 WESCOMs that received training on hand pump repairs and maintenance. Hygiene and sanitation materials were also donated to all the schools and clinics that would be part of the first phase of the WASH project in the state. The materials, which included 500 liter water tanks, buckets, soaps, brooms and rakes, were donated to encourage hand washing as well as improved personal hygiene and sanitation in the benefitting schools, clinics and communities.

And, as part of WOFAN’s collaborative efforts with other USAID IPs, the hygiene and sanitation materials were also donated to TSHIP, LEAD and NEI target communities and beneficiaries in schools and clinics in Sokoto state.

At the end of the day, everybody went home with one important thing or the other. More importantly however was the fact that the message of WASH was shared with many ordinary citizens. And, from the beginning to the end, the experience was something to remember; for a long time.