2019 International Youth Day: Youth as educators and changemakers in water and sanitation sector

by Aluora Annette Luttah, Temple Oraeki, Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado and Muhammad Wasif Bashir Babar

12 Aug, 2019 in Partner Perspective Categories

International Youth Day provides an opportunity to reinforce and highlight the commitment of youth to the Sustainable development Goals (SDGs). As the theme for 2019 International Youth Day is transforming education, we have asked Sanitation and Water for All’s (SWA) youth-led and youth-focused civil society partners on what role their organization is playing (or could play) as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) educators in their communities and at national level. With the aim to bring the voice of youth in SWA partnership, we have partnered with four Civil Society organizations (CSOs) to publish this joint blog. This includes an interview with Hope Spring Water Foundation, Nigeria and contributions from Young Volunteers for the Environment (Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement/JVE) International in Togo, Youth Water Network for Water Central America (Red de Jóvenes por el Agua CentroaméricaRJxA CA) in Costa Rica, and Pakistan Youth Parliament for Water.  

Youth as hygiene champions- Temple Oraeki 
“From the leadership to state-wise chapters, Hope Spring Water in Nigeria is a youth-led, and youth focused organization. We mobilize youth in different states of the country to lead our projects in schools as we believe youth are the changemakers and future leaders in their communities. Majority of the Nigerian population is below 18 years, therefore, the youth cannot be relegated to the background, if Nigeria is to achieve the SDGs”, says Temple Oraeki, Nigeria Country Director, Hope Spring Water Charity Foundation 


To provide WASH education in communities, Hope Spring Water has established WASH clubs in various schools in Nigeria. Temple continues, “Through these WASH clubs, which are student-led, we aim to sensitize the youth (both male and female) around sanitation and hygiene issues, especially Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).  Through MHM workshops, we aim to break the silence by demystifying menstruation myths and taboos surrounding menstruation. We also create National hygiene champions and menstrual hygiene champions who could disseminate the information from the workshops in WASH clubs and, also outside schools, in their communities. We also support infrastructural projects in the schools with no toilets, wherein the student members of the WASH club develop fundraising projects, and with the support of Hope Spring build a toilet.” 


Youth as WASH negotiators- Aluora Annette Luttah 

The youth are a source of great potential and energy that communities can tap into, and who can influence change to the cultural and developmental progress of a community. It is, therefore, critical to ensure that the young people are educated and trained as leaders for sustainable development of their communities. To realize this goal, JVE Togo invests in youth programs in WASH to transform young people to changemakers, with the belief that education and training at an early age influences behavioural change and attitudes for the future.  

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation are major concerns especially in Togo, where more than half of the country’s population lacks access to safe drinking water and many still lack access to basic sanitation services. JVE has created environmental clubs in schools, wherein, children and youth are taught sanitation and hygiene practices (like hand washing to prevent rampant water borne diseases) and basic water purification methods, such as Solar Disinfection of water (SODIS). The main aim of SODIS project is to develop, test and implement methods for solar-powered pasteurization of drinking water, thus building the capacity of schools and village female population in helping them to improve their role in the development of their society.  

With information and know how, young people have been able to take advantage of key events such as World Water Day, World Toilet Day, etc. to engage with leaders and decision makers by holding intergenerational dialogues to mobilize leaders to fulfill their commitments to SDGs. JVE’s support to youth innovations and initiatives as changemakers has brought attention to communities’ plight, with local and national leaders, as well as other stakeholders, intervening in provision of necessary services. However, a lot is to be done to ensure that tangible, long-term solutions that cater to the needs of the youth as well as those of a vibrant community. The young people still need to be equipped with the capacity and tools necessary to participate in policy spaces and key decision-making processes that determine the sectoral development and ensure their active contribution is attained towards Sustainable Development Goals. 


Youth as Communicators for change- Kenneth Alfaro Alvarado 

Young people, today, as never before in history, have the tools, motivation and ideas to be positive agents of change in communities. Being educators in WASH implies having the leadership of sharing knowledge, being innovative in the application of solutions to the challenges and working intergenerationally to create inclusive campaigns. The Central American Youth Network for Water is a platform that seeks to promote the involvement of young people in Integrated Water Resources Management, by strengthening the capacities of young people, through political advocacy, environmental education and volunteering. We are 500 members strong, and our network expands from Belize to Panama. We believe that the exchange of experiences and knowledge through peer learning is crucial for development of innovative ideas, both nationally and regionally.  

Through a virtual consultation that happened earlier this year, we prepared a Declaration on “Youth Acting for Sanitation to Not Leave Anyone Behind”, that was adhered to by 190 young people. Additionally, through advocacy via social networks, we aim seeks to create permanent spaces for environmental education, for the protection and proper management of water and empower other young people to broaden the impact and carry the message we want to convey. 


Youth in International spaces- Muhammad Wasif Bashir Babar 

Youth organizations have a critical role to play in raising awareness about safely managed WASH services, especially mensuration hygiene management (MHM) in local schools. Many girls quit from schools due to unavailability of toilets and develop health issues because of unawareness regarding sanitary products, which could easily be provided in the schools. We at Pakistan Youth Parliament for Water (PYPW) believe that the best way to create positive change is to empower young generations, for which we are working in educational institutions, not just in local schools, but also in colleges and universities to build momentum for  WASH education, especially MHM. Our focus on 2019 is also to build awareness about the impact of climate change and WASH. PYPW is not only working at national level but is also involved in creating spaces for youth at the global level, such as participating in the 1st World Summit on Leaving No One Behind.