Cover Image
close this bookSanitation Promotion (SIDA - SDC - WSSCC - WHO, 1998, 292 p.)
close this folderGaining political will and partnership
close this folderPrinciples and guidelines
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAdvocacy for sanitation - Sara Wood1 and Mayling Simpson-Hébert2
View the documentMobilizing the media for sanitation promotion - WHO, Geneva, Switzerland
View the documentMobilizing partners for sanitation promotion - Sara Wood1 and Mayling Simpson-Hébert2
View the documentPrivate-sector involvement in promoting sanitation - Sara Wood1
View the documentSocial marketing for sanitation programmes - Sunil Mehra1

Mobilizing partners for sanitation promotion - Sara Wood1 and Mayling Simpson-Hébert2

1 WHO Consultant, Geneva, Switzerland.
2 WHO, Geneva, Switzerland.

Your efforts to focus attention on sanitation can be multiplied by identifying other organizations and individuals to work in partnership with you. It is easy to ignore the voice of one organization, but much more difficult to ignore the voices of many thousand or perhaps millions of people. By involving others you will also have access to a much larger pool of ideas and resources for your activities. This means you can do more, and active partnerships attract higher levels of attention from both politicians and the media. Other organizations and groups work with different groups in society, for example, medical associations work with the medical community, business associations work with corporations and industry, local NGOs work with the community. By involving a variety of partners you can mobilize support from a broad cross section of society representing a wide diversity of interests.

Identifying partners

Mobilizing partners starts with identifying potential partners, then meeting with them and presenting a convincing case of why they should become involved. Some suggestions on how to make a presentation more effective are provided in Box 3 in Advocacy for sanitation. Advocacy is the key tool to use to convince groups to become partners. See “Building a persuasive case” in Advocacy for sanitation. Once you have the interest and commitment of a potential partner, you will need to work together to develop a programme of joint activities and establish how you can work together effectively.

Ideal partners are those that share a common interest, have previous experience in gaining support and initiating change, are influential in their own right, and already attract media attention.

The boxes which follow offers ideas for potential partners for sanitation promotion, tips for building successful partnerships, ideas for joint activities, principles for successful coalitions, tips for writing letters to government officials and three country examples.

Box 1. Potential partners for sanitation promotion


Government officials at national, district, municipal and local levels

· Prime Minister

· Ministers of relevant departments

· Mayors

· Councillors

· District and local government officials

External support agencies

· Multilateral organizations e.g. UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, UNCHS (United Nation's Centre for Human Settlements)

· Bilateral organizations e.g. Sida, DANIDA, SDC, USAID

International and national NGOs

· Foundations, e.g. Carter Institute

· Health organizations

· Women's organizations

· Development organizations

· Human rights organizations

· Children's organizations e.g. scouts and girl guides

· Water and sanitation development organizations

· Research organizations

Local nongovernmental organizations

· Community development groups

· women's groups,

· children's groups

· income generation committees

· village health committees

· cooperatives

· religious, social and traditional leaders

The private sector

· Multinational companies

· National and local businesses

The media

· Journalists interested in health, women's issues, development, government spending, environmental issues etc.

· editors

The medical community

· public and private sector health workers

· medical associations

· universities

· training institutions

The general public

· men
· women
· children


· powerful
· highly visible
· respected
· authoritative
· opinion leaders

· expertise

· outside the country political process

· relatively independent

· highly visible

· well respected

· difficult to ignore

· opinion leaders

· expertise

· independent from the political process

· action orientated

· flexible

· respected

· local knowledge

· local influence and respect

· influential
· independent
· opinion leaders
· respected
· international links
· expertise

· independent
· act quickly
· respected
· credible

· respected
· credible
· influential
· shared interests

· directly effected by inaction

· if united, the public is difficult to ignore

· if united, can influence policy

What they can do

· support sanitation policy development

· increase budget allocation for sanitation

· speak out and draw attention to sanitation

· lobby others

· influence others

· document and publicise results

· influence policy and decision-makers

· lobby government

· provide funding

· provide funding

· local knowledge and experience

· lobby others

· document and report results

· raise community awareness and support for sanitation

· influence the community

· participate in planning for change

· lobby local level government officials

· speak out and draw attention to sanitation

· initiate community-level action

· interest local media

· coordinate activities

· provide funding

· lobby for change

· provide specialist expertise, e.g. marketing, communications, technical, financial management etc.

· document and publicise results

· speak out and draw attention to sanitation

· grab national and international attention

· can be a vehicle for advocacy

· can make sanitation “news”

· influence politicians and decision-makers

· reach virtually every person in society

· create a sensation, or a controversy

· lobby for change

· influence politicians and decision-makers

· provide expertise

· demonstrate good practices

· document and publicise results

· undertake research and pilot projects

· participate in planning for change

· lobby politicians by writing letters, signing petitions

· hold mass demonstrations to show discontent

· attract media attention

Suggestions on how to mobilize

· use advocacy to draw attention to sanitation

· invite media attention

· work with partners on joint strategies to target this group

· use advocacy, but tailor the messages to the interests of this group

· organize meetings to bring different groups together

· sign joint declarations calling for action

· establish a coordinating committee

· develop joint activities

· identify those that share a common interest in sanitation

· use advocacy, but tailor the messages to be meaningful to the interests of this group

· initiate a dialogue

· set up a coordination mechanism

· agree a joint plan of action

· invite them to meetings and forums

· form a joint pressure group

· identify those that share a common interest in sanitation

· use advocacy, but tailor the messages to be meaningful to the interests of this group

· initiate a dialogue

· set up a coordination mechanism

· agree a joint plan of action

· invite hem to meetings and forums

· form a joint pressure group

· identify organizations that share an interest in advancing sanitation

· do personalized advocacy

· establish a coordination mechanism

· keep them informed

· develop joint activities

· develop a “good” information base of facts, figures and statistics

· identify the journalists with a special interest in sanitation and keep them informed

· provide journalist with newsworthy, timely information

· establish a media relations focal point in your organization

· organize important and influential people to act as spokespersons

· make an annual plan of events designed to attract media attention

· identify organizations with shared interests

· do personalized advocacy

· set up a coordinating mechanism

· keep the information flowing in both directions

· develop joint activities

· identify actions they can undertake

· seek their ideas

· advocacy through mass media

· organize community groups

· school and university activities

· awareness building at community festive gatherings

· request support from traditional and religious leaders

Box 2. Tips for building successful partnerships

· Look for groups that share a common interest.

· Do your homework. Find out about potential partners, and know something about their organization, what its goal are, how it is structured, who the key people are, and most importantly what they do.

· Be persistent. Building successful relationships with others takes careful planning, time and patience.

· Develop open and effective lines of communication so that everyone can be kept informed and up to date on activities.

· Share information, resources, ideas and expertise.

· Recognise that while there is common ground, there will also be areas of fundamental difference. Plan how you will deal with these situations.

· Be diplomatic.

· Consult your partners and ask their advice on relevant issues.

· Work in a participatory way and involve partners in planning and decision-making. This will increase their sense of ownership and responsibility for activities.

· Use a consensus approach to work with partners.

· Be enthusiastic.

· Show partners what they can do to make a difference. This is motivates action.

· Celebrate your joint successes.

· Evaluate your activities together and see how you can improve them in the future.

· Follow up and feedback results.

· Formally thank your partners for their efforts.

Box 3. Ideas for joint activities

· Letter writing campaigns to newspapers and government officials.
· Fund raising initiatives.
· Demonstrations/marches/fun runs etc.
· Events, sanitation days, clean up days etc.
· Advocacy workshops.
· News conferences.
· Joint statements calling for action.
· Sanitation awards.
· Internet websites.

Box 4. Principles for successful coalitions

· Choose unifying issues.
· Understand and respect institutional self-interest.
· Agree to disagree.
· Recognize that contributions from member organizations will vary.
· Structure decision-making carefully based on level of contribution.
· Clarify decision-making procedures.
· Help organizations to achieve their self-interest.
· Distribute credit fairly.

Adapted from: (1).

Box 5. Tips for writing letters to government officials

· Keep your letter concise and focus on a single issue.

· Make your argument in a well-reasoned way and support it with relevant data, statistics and powerful real-life stories.

· Be clear about what you want to happen.

· Ask for a specific action, a change in policy, an increase in funding, an appointment to present your case.

· Be positive and conciliatory in your first communication; avoid harsh criticism.

· Request information about the officials ability to respond; it may be that you need to be referred to somebody else.

· Request a direct response and follow up the letter with a telephone call.

Adapted from: (2).

Box 6. Mobilizing intersectoral partners in Nepal

Nepal has made impressive progress over the last five years in mobilizing partners for sanitation. They did it by:

· Creating awareness among politicians, planners, administrators, and media personnel, through meetings and brief orientation sessions, of the importance of sanitation and their responsibility for ensuring its integration into all development programmes.

· Raising awareness about the importance of different aspects of sanitation among the members of intra- and intersectoral coordination committees.

· Establishing a focal point for sanitation promotion in an appropriate government agency.

· Assigning the focal point clearly defined responsibility and authority as well as accountability.

· Organizing periodic meetings of water and sanitation coordination committees at all levels.

· Involving NGOs in the sanitation programme at every level.

· Involving as many women as possible in the sanitation programmes at every level.

· Including appropriate sanitation components in the curricula of schools, colleges, and training institutions of all development programmes.

· Emphasizing the integration of sanitation into all development programmes.

· Considering legislation on various sanitation issues.

Contributed by Dinesh C. Pyakural, Director General, Department of Water Supply and Sewerage, Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning, Nepal.

Box 7. Joining hands with churches for sanitation promotion in Angola

An effective partnership is taking place in two Angolan cities of Lobito and Benguela, with a total population of about one million. In 1997, 11 000 new latrines were built using the dome-shaped SanPlat, up from a little over 4000 the year before. The key to this sudden increase lies in the partnerships forged between the sanitation project and local churches, other NGOs and local leaders. Of all of these groups, the churches have played the most pivotal role. In 1998 they plan to build 40 000 more latrines.

The project actually began in 1990, but war and administrative problems caused the latrine building activities to gradually drop to zero by 1993. Subsidies for the slabs were increased to stimulate demand, but there was no enthusiasm and the ploy failed.

In 1995 the project decided to begin working with traditional leaders, something which had been impossible earlier because of the political situation in the country. At a meeting during that year, the traditional leaders suggested that the project approach the churches for assistance. “That is what we do when we have a problem,” they said.

The project called for a meeting with church leaders. This was something very new for government, as relations between the Marxist regime and the churches had been very tense. More than 30 church leaders attended the meeting where the situation was presented. The project asked for help and explained their difficulties. They made the point that the project and the churches actually had a common mission: to help people in need.

The project leaders talked about hygiene, diseases and death, about Christian values such as “love your neighbour” and being a “good Samaritan”, about Christians being the Light and the Salt, about Faith and Works. They distributed papers they had prepared that presented sanitation from a Christian perspective.

The churches are now involved in three things. First, they run two casting yards for making latrine slabs (out of a total of five), they do all of the community mobilization for sanitation and they do hygiene education for the project. Three messages with explanations are now advocated:

- Always use the latrine
- Wash your hands
- Be cautious with baby's faeces.

Why it worked

· The technology was simple, understandable, attractive and adaptable to felt needs. You can only mobilize a community for something they like.

· Only the slab was subsidized. The remainder of the materials and labour could be organized with no cash input. Most families are very poor and would have no cash to contribute.

· A partnership was forged among the project, traditional leaders, many churches and a few NGOs, all of whom had high credibility among the population. The project did not tell any of their partners how to mobilize the people or do the hygiene education. It was done their traditional way and it worked.

Contributed by Bjorn Brandberg, SBI Consulting, Eveni-Mbabane, Swaziland.

Box 8. Advocacy, social mobilization and communication for sanitation in Bangladesh

Bangladesh achieved major increases in drinking-water coverage in the 1980's but parallel improvements in the health of the country's population were not seen. Although safe water coverage had reached 80 per cent by the late 1980s, sanitation coverage remained a mere 8 per cent. This was because safe latrines, despite having been promoted in Bangladesh for nearly 30 years, remained unpopular with most of the population. A main factor was the high cost of the waterseal latrine being promoted. Also, latrines had been promoted on the basis of the health and germ theory, when in fact the attractions they would hold for the population related to privacy for women and prestige.

The programme. In 1990, with support from UNICEF, Bangladesh's Department of Public Health and Engineering started a social movement for change programme to encourage better hygiene practices and the buying of basic latrines. The programme focused on “users as customers”, “commercial producers as suppliers” and “an affordable product” (3), and from 1993 to 1995 took the form of a massive demand-creation effort - to the tune of US$ 3.7 million.

This involved advocacy to organize information into argument, which was then communicated through various interpersonal and media channels in order to gain political and social leadership acceptance, and to prepare communities for the programme. More specifically, advocacy:

- mobilized senior government staff, members of parliament, the media, NGOs and the community;

- persuaded politicians and senior government decision-makers that sanitation is a top priority in the drive against diarrhoea (which accounts for 300 000 child deaths each year in Bangladesh); and

- promoted the idea of “pathogen overload”, showing how every sector in society is vulnerable to waterborne disease.(4)

Social mobilization was next used to bring together intersectoral social “allies” to raise awareness of and demand for the programme, and to help ensure effective delivery of resources and services. These allies included:

- the leadership of a village-based organization, “Ansars”, with four million members, which trained its officers in sanitation;

- Islamic clergy who permitted a UNICEF communications officer to address 1.5 million people at a religious gathering and to distribute half a million leaflets on sanitation;

- the Prime Minister, who agreed to launch the programme logo at a national rally;

- organizers of a National Sanitation Week which was designed to promote the goal of a sanitary latrine for each household by the year 2000.

Wide-ranging programme communication efforts also contributed to this drive towards sanitation improvement. Such communication involves identifying, segmenting and targeting specific groups/audiences with particular strategies, messages or training programmes. In this case, the strategy included courtyard meetings which were used to explain the benefits of the programme to 25-30 families at a time. Concurrently, sanitation promotional materials, rather than simply repeating health messages, highlighted the privacy, convenience and prestige of latrines; in other words, they identified preferences and cultural values and ensured that the targeted messages reflected these.

Figure 1. The key elements of the strategy for sanitation in Bangladesh

Source: (5).

Importantly, a range of more affordable latrines were promoted. A more modest waterseal latrine was designed, less than half the price of the original and commercially produced by suppliers. A do-it-yourself latrine, which can be produced at little or no cost to the family, and with a life of about five years, was also approved.

The results of these activities have been impressive, as shown by a 1994 survey of 10 000 randomly selected families. Compared to 1985:

- use of sanitary latrines has increased from 4 to 35 per cent;
- use of tubewell water for drinking reached 92 per cent (up from 80 per cent);

- handwashing with soap or ash after defecating was up from 5 to 27 per cent.


(1) Organizing for Social Change. Washington, DC, Seven Locks Press, 1991.

(2) Owens B, Klandt K. TB Advocacy: a practical guide 1998. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1998. (unpublished document WHO/TB/98.239).

(3) Ikin D. A sanitation success story - the effect of demand creation in Bangladesh. Waterlines, July-September 1996, 30: 1-3.

(4) McIntyre P. Communication case studies for the water supply and sanitation sector. Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council/IRC, The Hague, The Netherlands, 1993.

(5) McKee N. Social mobilization and social marketing in developing communities, lessons for communicators. Penang, Southbound, 1992.