Claim Your Water Rights: updated FAQs

by | Dec 10, 2021 | Blogs

1. What is Claim Your Water Rights?

Claim Your Water Rights is a global public pressure campaign that aims to mobilise communities and civil society to demand their rights to water and sanitation from governments.

2. Is this campaign applicable to all water and sanitation related issues worldwide?

The inclusive nature of Claim Your Water Rights allows members to advocate on a range of different human rights issues related to water and sanitation – whether it’s disconnections, sanitation workers’ rights, debt cancellation, climate justice or privatisation. This means members can adapt their campaign approach to their local or national context while working in global solidarity under one banner.

Integrated Regional Support Programme organised a Claim Your Water Rights rally for International Women’s Day in Pakistan.

3. What about sanitation?

We use the term ‘water rights’ as shorthand for ‘the human rights to water and sanitation’. Though most members focus on water-related issues, others give equal priority to sanitation. For example, the Indian Institute of Youth & Development organised rights awareness training for an Adivasi community in Koraput, Odisha. Following the training, the community filed a complaint to the National Scheduled Tribes Commission concerning a lack of toilets. A subsequent report showed that the money allocated for toilets had been spent despite no construction work taking place – the government simply assumed that the Adivasi community would not complain. When the commission received the complaint, the government immediately started constructing toilets.

The Indian Institute of Youth and Development hold World Toilet Day demonstrations.

Similarly Center for Law & Justice (CLJ) used Claim Your Water Rights to advance their campaign for the safety, dignity and wellbeing of sanitation workers in Pakistan. In June 2020 the Punjab Assembly passed an historic resolution recognising sanitation workers as “frontline heroes in the fight against Covid”. The Pakistan Supreme Court then ordered provincial and federal governments to provide safety kits to workers.

4. How can civil society support rights claiming?

Civil society can use a range of different accountability tools to support rights claiming. Our initial communication materials focused too heavily on lodging complaints to regulators and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs). NHRIs are responsible for promoting and monitoring the fulfilment of human rights at national level but their effectiveness varies from country to country. We quickly tweaked our suggested campaign tactics to accommodate members working in countries without functioning human rights institutions or regulators.

Our members’ campaign tactics encompass community mobilisation, media influencing, government engagement, research, data documentation, protest and litigation. The more varied the tactics, the better. This campaign is not about forcing members to be confrontational. It’s about giving unconditional backing to members who see confrontation as an effective way of achieving their advocacy aims.

Young people demand their water rights in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, at a protest organised by the National Association of Youth Organisations.

5. What is End Water Poverty’s role?

Our primary role is to fund civil society members to conduct grassroots or national campaigns. We also offer guidance if required and convene monthly Claim Your Water Rights task team calls where we discuss how to improve the campaign. Another important role is amplifying our members’ work by organising webinars and sharing achievements through traditional or social media in addition to facilitating exchanges between members, allies, and intersectional movements to sharpen strategies and strengthen solidarity.

6. Are there tangible examples of the campaign advancing people’s rights to water and sanitation?

Yes! Over the past few years our members have achieved a number of impressive results, including legal reform, influencing governments’ COVID-19 responses, infrastructure improvements and numerous communities successfully claiming their rights in multiple countries.

Our first major success came in Zambia. In January 2020, Vision Africa Regional Network supported over 1,000 people who had been without safe water for almost a year to successfully demand their rights from their member of parliament following TV interviews with disgruntled residents and threats to lodge complaints to Zambia’s human rights commission.

Our most recent success came in Nigeria with the passing into law of the Enugu Water Bill. The bill stipulates that people have a right to water and that this right is to be enforced by an independent regulator. This came after months of patient, persistent lobbying by the WASH Rights Network.

WASH Rights Network
The WASH Rights Network pose after meeting government officials to confirm the passing into law of the Enugu Water Bill.

These are just a couple of examples. We documented our initial advocacy achievements in our 2019-20 Progress Report and recently celebrated the second anniversary of Claim Your Water Rights by gathering members’ campaign highlights into one very colourful Twitter mega-thread.

7. What next?

While the first phase of the campaign (2019-2022) focused on raising public and political awareness of the human rights to water and sanitation and testing a variety of rights claiming strategies, in the second phase (2022-2024) we will broaden the campaign by diversifying grant recipients and sharpen strategies by facilitating peer-to-peer exchanges between members. In September we will publish an updated campaign strategy to outline our plans in detail.

Any more questions?

Please contact [email protected].