Of all the values that underpin our work at BASEflow, my favorite child would probably be “Boldness” which we describe as:
‘The recognition that the challenges we seek to address are complex, which is precisely why they have persisted for decades. BASEflow believes that courage is needed to take calculated risks and make
ambitious decisions to change what many in the sector believe cannot be changed’ As development workers, we oftentimes forget that our work, besides digging that well or building that
school, involves changing the accepted way of doing things. This usually means standing up for those who are voiceless, mostly because they are afraid to speak; which puts us in the firing line of people
with influence, power and, ultimately, vested interest in keeping things the way they are. It’s in such moments that one knows what one is really made of; for it is in such times when boldness is needed.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in that minefield which is the nexus between water and politics.
The nexus between water and politics in Malawi, like many places in the world, has always been a minefield of controversy where philosophies and ideologies battle for dominance. What may seem in
the eyes of many to be an indiscriminate threshold resource that should be accessible to all, is seen, through the political lens, to be a powerful tool to gain votes and legitimacy from the masses. The
recent Malawian tripartite elections in May of this year exemplified this through promises that were made that, on paper, seemed to go against principles of sustainability and the guidelines/frameworks
outlined in national policies such as the National Water Policy e.g. a case in point: https://mwnation.com/ndirande-gets-boreholes/ .
It is from this clash of interests, between the developmental and the political, that controversies arise; and, resultantly and understandably, civil society organizations, particularly those working in Malawi’s
water sector, chose to either tread carefully or avoid the likely fallout all together. It is a dilemma that we at BASEflow understand all too well.
So how can a civil society organization engage the political whilst navigating the minefield of controversy surrounding it? We cannot say we have all the answers, but, leading up to the May 2019 general
elections, we decided to add our voice to the public discourse around Water and Politics and whether or not, the two can or should mix. Using the power and reach of radio and inspired by our friend Ned
Breslin, BASEflow partnered with Sharpe Brains, a local radio production company, to develop a series of short adverts to reach rural communities and aspiring Members of Parliament to:
- Raise awareness of the need and benefit of following government policy, procedures
and processes when providing groundwater development services during and beyond
- Address accepted practices, or ways of doing things, during campaign period that
negatively impact on the sustainability of boreholes/handpumps
Building off real-life stories and voices, the radio campaign had 7 adverts in all which were broadcast 700 times from November 2018 until May 2019, reaching countless millions with key messages. To listen
to these radio adverts, visit our Team Leader’s blog: