By Najibu Mulema

The first of its kind in Uganda, the Uganda WASH media awards, started with a big bang.
The Uganda WASH media awards (UWMA) initiative is a collective sector effort aimed at recognising and encouraging news coverage of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues by local, national and international media so as to raise awareness of the importance of WASH.
The WASH media awards are part of the activities lined up as a prelude to the Global Handwashing Day National celebrations that will take place on 14th October in Kamuli district.

The event was organised by the ministry of Water and Environment, ministry of Education and sports, Ministry of Health, Uganda Water and Sanitation Network, Water Aid Uganda, Unicef, SNV, National hand washing Initiative, International water and sanitation center, Worldvision, Hai agency and WEMNET.

On a cool enticing Friday evening, the awaited Uganda WASH media awards sparked off at Sheraton Hotel, Kampala.
At around 7pm,Victoria hall was already a full house. Before the actual start of the event, guests were entertained by Micheal Ouma and his band on a live session.

After the performance, Dr.Ronnie Mich Ogwang, the host for the night invited the chairperson of the National Hands wash initiative, Eng.Joseph Eyatu to give a welcoming speech. Eyatu welcomed the guests, media and he said they give out awards to the media to act as a symbol that they appreciate them.

The event carried big figures from all corners of Uganda notably, the minister of water and environment Sam Cheptoris, state minister for primary Education Rosemary Nansubuga Seninde (represented the guest of honour Janet Museveni ), former Uganda investment authority boss Dr.Maggie Kigozi just to mention but a few.

Among the guest speakers, Dr Maggie Kigozi thanked the media for doing a great job and encouraged the WASH initiative to regulate the private sector through encouragement on do’s and don’ts which can help to preserve water and maintain proper sanitation as well as hygiene.

However,  she blamed the organizers for not inviting the private sector members to the function because they were very few in the hall.

“Is it because we were not informed or we were invited but never attended, definately you did not invite most of us yet we can make a change as a private sector.”Dr Maggie Kigozi said.

The judges were invited on stage to elaborate he credentials they based on while selecting nominees. Among the judges included John Baptist Waswa, a retired senior editor and lecturer, Paul Kimunye a senior journalist and Peter Kaba, former Kfm boss.

According to Waswa, they were 30 entries, they spread them into 5 categories namely:  print feature, print investigative, radio news feature, Television news feature and online.
The following is what the judges looked into the selected stories;
-The journalism skills like accuracy,style and creativity
-use of factual checkers to check figures
-whether the story engaged the audience,does it cause change,contains quotations.
-illustrations and integrity,does the story contain new ideas?

Basically the panel of judges looked at audience engagement and knowledge of WASH to award the media personalities.
Out of the 10 nominees, 5 were expected to win.
Each category had two nominees.
By the end of the day, Collins Hinamundi of News 24 Africa scooped tje award for online category, Judith Atim kfm won for radio category, Kenneth Kavuulu BBS for television category, Richard Ekotu for outstanding rural story ,Ronald Mugabe, Owen Rwagabeza and Peter George all from New Vision won for print feature category, Paul Tajuba Daily Monitor won for print investigative category and the over all winner were Ronald Mugabe,Owen Rwagabeza and George Peter.

During the ocassion, minister for Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris gave out shs2m for the cause of WASH and he said, “as the government we have made sure that our people access safe water, 67% can access water in Uganda ,33% don’t have access to water. This is the figure we are more concerned with as government, we have asked NWSC to make water affordable for all poor people.”
Finally the guest of honour, Rosemary Nansubuga Seninde, the minister for primary education on behalf of the first lady, Janet Museveni, thanked the ministry of Water and Environment and WASH initiative for motivating the media.
“Media would have done nothing if the ministry had not done anything, “Said Seninde.

She encouraged the media if possible to cover every story about WASH because its the duty of the media to inform Ugandans.

Each winner walked away with an accolade and shs1.5m cash prize and runners up were given shs500,000 and certificates.

The over all winner pocketed shs 3million, an accolade and a water tank from Crest Tank.