Youth Participation in WASH: Essential for a Sustainable Future

by | Mar 18, 2019 | Blogs

Water is an essential component of sustainable development, having a crucial role in human well-being, socio-economic growth and the health of the environment and ecosystems.

Agenda 2030 lays out a clear path and vision for a sustainable future, and has received unprecedented support across governments, civil society, businesses and citizens alike. Global challenges – ranging from climate change, water and food crises, to poverty, conflict and inequality – more than ever are in need of solutions that young people can deliver.

There are about 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 in the world today—the largest youth population ever – according to UNFPA,. Presently half of the world’s young people live in Sub Saharan Africa. Although they are heavily and directly affected by water issues, many youth are marginalised from political processes and excluded from participating in decisions that affect their lives without the recognition that these young people will bear the consequences of the policy choices that are made today. Conversely, if we are to make faster progress in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the youth can and should play a greater role. This is because engaging young people to participate in making productive change can benefit communities and society at large, while at the same time build their resilience and allow them to exercise positive leadership now and in the future. It is clear that young people have the potential and willingness to bring about momentous change by translating the SDGs into a sustainable future for all.

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Unarguably, youth are already today’s actors since they are already acting for social change. They are ready to take charge of their future and take responsibility for changing it; it is time we let their voices be heard. Water is everybody’s business.

Critical to the success of the 2030 Agenda is the role of young people in engaging with the government to deliver on policies and programmes on the ground. Equally, the role of youth participation in informing equitable and diverse policy design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, cannot be over-emphasised. Determined in changing the world, young people do so with hope and confidence, inspired by their passion, dreams and vision of a better future. Through their actions and commitments, young people have already demonstrated that they have boundless energy, enthusiasm and ability to change the world and ensure that access to water and sanitation for everyone is a government priority through increased influence, advocacy and voice for better development outcomes.

While the scale of the unmet need for safe water and sanitation remains huge, considerable progress has been made over recent years. The efforts of civil society organisations, governments, local communities and international development agencies have, without a doubt, led to substantial increases in water and sanitation provision are achievable when everyone plays their part. However, for these efforts to be successful, much more is needed in terms of political commitments, and targeted interventions in support of youth. It means a strengthened development partnership between all stakeholders.

Importantly, youth participation and involvement will be essential to achieving this change. The good news is that through youth participation in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and SDGs, we can ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

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It is important to recognise that young people must have the right to access information. They must also be equipped with the right skills to access, process, generate, disseminate, and engage with data to make informed decisions. It is then that youth hold those in power accountable, expand their scope of influence as well as their networks and opportunities to take actions. This will improve their lives, while leveraging on their large population to bring global attention to issues such as water and sanitation.

The Christian Fellowship and Care Foundation (CFCF) is ready to spearhead youth involvement and participation in WASH, and is already doing so by putting Nigerian youth in the driver’s seat. Unleashing their power for positive community change and capitalising on their creative talents to spread awareness on the issues, CFCF are providing a platform where youth can raise priorities, be heard by decision-makers and society, participate in their communities’ civic life, mobilise and organise for action. These spaces enable them to express their voice as individuals or as part of a network. In addition to contributing to better decision-making and outcomes, opportunities to express their opinions give youth confidence and experience in engaging others and influencing better choices.

At CFCF we believe that the successful implementation of the SDGs will require all players to champion this agenda and that young people are a tremendous force for positive change at all levels. – CFCF reaches youth at the right time to catalyse their potential and enable them to proactively shape a rapidly changing world.

After all, participation, by definition, is about encouraging people to voice their own issues and concerns and shape possible solutions. With that said, governments should work closely with youth in both drafting the means and implementing the will because young people have aspirations that are far broader and that need to be supported. Decision making processes must actively include young people as knowledge and stakeholders with approaches that focus on prioritising their participation and respecting their rights. Addressing their aspirations for youth participation is key to ensuring a sustainable world is passed on to generations thereafter.

Youth participation is essential not only because they will be the beneficiaries and the leaders in the future but also because so many of them already have decisive roles to play within their communities. And with that recognition therefore, their participation through some kind of real space where youth could gather and formulate policies and projects towards not only their own development but development of the world as a whole, becomes imperative.

Looking ahead, the Christian Fellowship and Care Foundation will focus more efforts on facilitating of youth participation in WASH. We will work to mobilise an ever increasing number of young people as a critical stakeholder on putting the SDGs – especially Goal 6 during Water Action Month 2019 – acting as a link to bringing young people and other water stakeholders together for a strengthened collective voice and messages in order to ensure that decision makers hear their voices and listen. This will ensure that we do not leave future generations behind and thereby offering innumerable opportunities for young people to thrive.

This blog was written in partnership with the Christian Fellowship and Care Foundation for the Water Action Month campaign as part of its weekly themes series, focusing on youth participation in WASH.