NORMAN, Okla. – The University of Oklahoma Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center has named development activist Ada Oko-Williams as the recipient of the 2013 University of Oklahoma International Water Prize. Oko-Williams, associate director at Water and Sanitation for Africa, was nominated and selected for her advocacy and collaborative community approach for clean water, sanitation and hygiene in Africa.
From poor, rural, disease-stricken communities in Nigeria to communities of the deep forests of war-torn Sierra Leone and Liberia to desert communities in Niger Republic, Oko-Williams is engaged with issues affecting access to water and sanitation.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Oko-Williams understands firsthand the problems a lack of access to water and sanitation can mean to a country’s development. She believes Africa’s development problems can be solved with the support and collaboration of the developed world and achieved with African citizens in the driver’s seat.
Water expert Idrissa Doucouré, CEO of Water and Sanitation for Africa, a Panafrican Intergovernental Agency, nominated Oko-Williams at the OU WaTER Symposium in September.
“Ada Oko-Williams rebuilds lives as well as infrastructure,” Doucouré said. “She inspires communities to take action toward their own development through participatory processes and critical analyses of situations while offering solutions and actions designed to address undesirable situations.”
In the past five years, Oko-Williams has trained more than 350 sanitation practitioners in West Africa. She has directly worked with more than 1,000 communities, indirectly providing more than 600,000 people access to sanitation and hygiene in communities in West Africa. At the policy level, she has influenced the development of sanitation programs through direct engagements with governments and duty bearers.
Oko-Williams currently is exploring economic and business models in sanitation that better livelihood, support environmental sustainability and spur economic development and growth at micro levels in Africa.