….As Press Union of Liberia Welcomes Initiative – By: Augustine N. Myers – After series of informal discussions by Liberian Journalists to unite themselves under a Group that will champion increase media attention on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene commonly known as WASH, they have overwhelmingly agreed to officially establish a National WASH Media Network.
The Group is to be called Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia to inform and educate on WASH issues and equally increase media coverage and reportage in the Sector.
The over 20 Liberian journalists from the various Media Institutions, at the first official General round table Meeting in Monrovia on Saturday, December 18, 2010 unanimously agreed to immediately begin the process leading to the formal establishment of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia.
The Liberian journalists also welcomed the pending establishment of a Regional WASH Network to expand media attention on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in the West African Sub-region.
As Liberian Journalists, they promised to ensure a robust process aimed at establishing a local Network, so as to join the rest of the West African Countries that already have their respective National Networks, and contribute to the establishment of a Regional WASH Network.
According to them, the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia when established, will ensure that the WASH Sector is fully prioritized, as part of efforts to bring about positive transformation and at the same time assist national government in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Liberian Journalists pointed out that the WASH Sector is very important due to the fact that access to safe water and sanitation facilities remains extremely low in both urban and rural areas of Liberia.
They promised urgent media engagement in the WASH Sector, based on the fact that the Liberian Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) which is considered as Liberia’s road map towards achieving the MDGs with an estimate that only one in four Liberians has access to safe drinking water, while one in seven has access to adequate sanitation facilities such as toilets or some form of waste disposal, and one in 20 practice safe hygiene behavior.
Also drawing analysis from the 2008 Liberia census, this translates to an estimated 2.6 million people still without access to improve water supply, which over 3 million people are without improved sanitation and over 3.3 million people which is so close to the overall population of Liberia’s 3.5 million people, do not practice safe hygiene behavior in the Country today.
The Reporters and Editors after listening attentively to the Chairperson who recently attended the Bamako WASH Media Workshop, agreed that it is about time to group themselves as reporters and editors with specific interest in the Liberia WASH Sector, especially through their involvement and participation.
Participants at the meeting setup a 7-member steering committee to draft the foundation document and return this week with its report to enhance the official establishment of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia
Meanwhile, the parent Body of Journalists in Liberia, the “Press Union of Liberia (PUL)” has welcomed the initiative to form a Group with specialization in water, sanitation and hygiene coverage and reportage, as reporters and editors.
Making brief remarks at the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia’s Meeting on Saturday, PUL Secretary General, Charles B. Coffey, Jr. commanded the Liberia Media Empowerment & Advocacy Foundation (LIMEAF) for the initiative to bring Liberian journalists together to promote WASH issues.
He pledged the commitment of the Union to provide moral and technical support to the Liberian WASH Media Initiative, expected to shortly to witness the establishment of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia.
Also speaking was the Chairman of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) WASH Media Group, Prince D. Kreplah who also extolled efforts to ensure the establishment of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia.
Mr. Kreplah explained the importance of the WASH Sector, and the involvement of journalists to increase coverage of WASH issues, and also assured of his Entity’s support to the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia.
The Saturday meeting of Liberian journalists in Monrovia followed a Regional workshop of Media Practitioners from the West African Sub-region comprising Anglophone and Francophone Countries, aimed at improving coverage and reportage on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, which is commonly known as the WASH Sector.
The workshop brought together over twenty participants from Liberia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Togo and Niger, and was held in the Malian Capital, Bamako from November 29 to December 2, 2010.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Training Workshop focused on the role of the media in Social Change and Influence, the Importance of the Media in the WASH Sector aimed at conveying Information, Providing Education and Entertainment that will instigate appropriate actions to among other things, ensure transformation to include behavior change and ensure political will from decision makers, in the interest of the WASH Sector.
The media practitioners looked at other key issues like an Economic Case which ensures some benefits on Investment, a Political Case which ensures political stability, a Social Case to remove social blockages, all with more emphasis on the importance of the Water Sector, health, education, finance, climate change, gender, inclusion and poverty reduction.
The participants were further trained on the role of the media focusing on the WASH Sector to identify the policy problem and the change required through the aspect of raising the issue of WASH, formulation of policy by supporting citizens engagement, and implementing the policy on the basis of playing a watch-dog role, evaluating policy change-demanding accountability and ensuring campaign/social movements.
The participants were further urged to give WASH issues more publicity by building a critical mass of and ensuring support to deliver the message to the audience in the languages they understand, drew the attention of policy makers by complementing and strengthening Civil Society Organizations’ efforts which will instigate action and influence change.
The workshop was facilitated by WaterAid, Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), and a representative of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The participants were also advised of the importance to provide accurate information that is scientifically correct, based on statistics, and without exaggeration for the public inclusion decision makers to bring about the necessary change for the WASH Sector.
Meanwhile, participants at the WASH Media Workshop in Bamako, Mali have reached an overwhelming agreement to establish a Regional Media Network on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
The decision stands from the fact that the WASH Sector can achieve so much more, especially ahead of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
The media practitioners truly believe that as members of the 4th Estate, the poor and excluded people are relying on them, and by increasing coverage and reportage on the WASH Sector, especially in West Africa, there will be transformation in the WASH Sector.
The participants also resolved to convey a Congress by next March to finalize on the establishment of the Regional Network.
A 3-member steering committee was set-up from Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Senegal to begin consultations and prepare papers for the establishment of the Regional WASH Network.
The steering committee has at the sametime requested Liberia and other West African Countries that do not have a local Network to immediately begin to organize and establish a National WASH Network in their respective Countries.
Liberia was represented at the workshop by the Liberia Media Empowerment & Advocacy Foundation (LIMEAF) Inc. that has pledged its support to ensure the full establishment of a National WASH Network in Liberia comprising of reporters and editors.
The involvement of media practitioners in the WASH Sector through increased coverage and reportage is considered a step in the right direction to give media attention to basic WASH issues and other WASH-related activities.
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