20 Nov : The need to Spread awareness on Sanitation related issues and opting for ‘best practice’ models is the media’s responsibility. Moreover, Sanitation is a cross-cutting issue, has implications for a variety of development areas. The media is becoming cognisant of this. Such idea’s have garnered momentum during the ongoing four days long third South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN-III) being held here.
During the media advocacy session,it was informed that the Government of India is alive to the sanitation question. India’s sanitation budget is $ 225 million. However, less than 30 per cent of people living in rural India have access to latrines on account of several technical aspects. To attain the target of total Sanitation by 2012, 1.12 lakh toilets need to be built every day The challenge is immense.
It was also informed that IEC has taken centre stage in the Total Sanitation Campaign – for example, education on sanitation issues in schools. Moreover, Total Sanitation has to go beyond just toilets. Urban women use sanitary napkins but in rural areas, women use a piece cloth, wash it, and re-use it. However, they have no private space to dry the piece of cloth in the sun. As such, it’s used while still wet. This has health and hygiene implications.
The participants agreed that Economy of water and absence of treatment plans for water are emerging issues for the sanitation sector. They pollute other water bodies, and spread ill-health. However, Sanitation is considered the weaker cousin of water; actually, hygiene is the weaker cousin of sanitation
As a problem it was highlighted that Language is a major issue. People easily don’t accept the words we use while writing about sanitation issues. Especially in the regional press. Hence, Sanitation has to be packaged – as an economic, social, child or behaviour change story. It was accepted that media has helped mobilise people and raising awareness for sustainable sanitation. There is a role in development for GOs, NGOs and the media.
The participants unanimously agreed upon the need to educate editors and sub-editors, not necessarily those who write/report on sanitation. Reach out to the ‘gatekeepers’ in media. It was also felt that Capacity building and active media engagement on the part of sanitation officials in the government is needed. It was suggested that Government officials can use religious/cultural sentiments to stop people defecating in rivers or otherwise resorting to open defecation. Media can help communicate these. Stories containing interesting facts, numbers, trivia, historical details about sanitation and its role in human civilization can be given prominence.
Among other suggestions it was mooted that ‘UN Ambassadors for Sanitation’ or celebrities endorsing sanitation initiatives could grab media attention and Public broadcasters in all South Asian countries have a huge audience. They can be partners for the sanitation sector.
For awareness the task of Dramatising sanitation issues, especially on television, could be effective. Also, Numbers have to be presented creatively, shaped in a manner that grips the media. Moreover, the folk media should be used to carry the sanitation message to those the mainstream media doesn’t reach.
The Session was chaired by Smt. Deepak Sandhu, Principal Director General, Press Information Bureau, Government of India.It was co-chaired by Shri B.G. Verghese. Senior journalist, Ms. Kalpana Sharma, senior journalist, Ms. Geeta Sharma, WSP-SA, India, Mr. Toni Sittoni, WSP-Africa Region; and Mr. Yosa Yuliarsa, WSP-East Asia/Pacific, Ms. Huma Khawar, Pakistan, Ms. Shakila Parvin, Bangladesh and Sh.Manipadma Jena, India were the other speakers.