Working with old friends in Ghana

Seeing old friends is always nice. Combining that with some interesting voluntary work is even nicer in the first year of my retirement. This is what I did in Ghana a few weeks ago.  I went on holiday for two weeks visiting friends and I offered my expertise free of charge to our partner there: the WASH Resource Centre Network Ghana, I asked them how they could use me.  In the end it turned out that an interactiv workshop sharing my 40 – year experience in journalism and WASH communication with the Ghana WASH Journalists Network was very welcome.

Edmund Smith-Asante, the Deputy National Coordinator of the GWJN asked in a short meeting before the workshop if I could use my experience and passion to make the mainstream journalists enthusiastic for writing good stories around water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). So that is what I did.  Largely consisting of  a Q and A session with some 15 journalists we touched on a wide range of topics:

  • Journalists write and editors decide, so use economic and financial angles to  water, sanitation and hygiene feature stories.
  • Journlaists can give voice to men, women and children about their needs and legal rights.
  • Writing active and attractive headlines and use of good sub headings helps getting the key messages accroos to editors as well as readers. Follow what the commercial marketing world uses:  AIDA to raise Awareness, Interest, Desire and trigger Acquisition
  • Journalistic networks that I helped create  in the water sector work  well during the start up months, but partcipating journalist are soon too occupied to continue contributing with their daily struggle for stories and money.

On that last point I discussed with Abu Wumbei, the RCN Coornidator, the need to team up with the main newspaper’s Chief Editor or even owner to interest them in linking up with water, sanitation and hygiene as part of their regular reporting.

We also went through the WSSCC media guide of 2003 with checklists and the Hygiene Code that help journalists ask better questions.

Harriete Bentil

Unfortunately,  a planned meeting with Harriette Naa Lamley Bentil. who I trained in Stockholm in 2009,  did not go through as planned. When I saw  her byeline  on two front pages of the Daily Graphic I understood why. Ghana media are focusing heavily on the presidential election of 7 December 2012.

In 2009 we interviewed each other at the Water Cube during the Stockholm World Water Week. Here is the text and the link.

Dick de Jong, IRC, The Netherlands, and Harriette Bentil, Daily Graphic, Ghana,  talk about the week as journalists. They both are excited about using the simple flip video to do short interview for Watercube tv. Henriette also wrote stories and highlights of each day published on She takes interesting leads from her interviews here for future writing for her Daily Graphic, 70 percent of her features are on environment and sanitation issues.

Joined study tour South Africa

It was good to see that Harriette was asked to join a higl level water sector study group from Ghana to learn form the experience of their South African collesgues, Se her blog post: Revamping Ghana’s water sector: Lessons from South Africa, published on 9 January 2012.

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