By: SJ Rasheed
Today concludes the 9th annual World Water Forum, hosted in Dakar Sengal.
Sara Dia, a Wil Lebanon lead had the opportunity to attend this event. She was joined by 60 other members of the World Youth Parliament for Water, an International organization shedding light on how youth can be more involved in water management issues.
This Forum, first hosted in 1997, is the largest international water advocacy event in the world. It is held every 3 years in host countries around the globe. This space is used as a platform for international water advocates to make their issues known, collaborate and use the shared environment as a catalyst for change.
This group attended the forum in hopes of discussing how world water leaders can prioritize the voices of youth in this sector.
“It’s a great experience to be surrounded by people who have your vision and ambition” said Sara.
For the first time in the history of the World Water Forum, there was a designated area for youth-centered conversations and events. Sara and other members of the World Youth Parliament saw this as a huge milestone as youth are often let out of higher-level conversations on how to address climate change.
“We wanted a place because we wanted to be visible, we wanted to be heard because we have a lot to say, and we want to become a part of the decision-making process” said Sara.
Throughout the week, the youth held discussions on the obstacles many in the global community face when trying to make changes in the water sector. Participants shared their experience from their local point of view, and patterns emerged which transcended borders.
On Tuesday of this past week Sara facilitated an event called “Let’s Build our Desired Water Career Roadmap”, which was a chance for young water leaders to have formative dialogue on addressing gaps of youth inclusion in water workforce and entrepreneurship.
They mainly discussed two points, the unawareness of water networks that could lead to barriers in finding the proper career path and the shortage of opportunities in the water sector.
The 20-25 participants came from international communities all over the world, all with their own unique water challenges.
“The interesting part was them coming from different backgrounds, they did agree that these were the main points contributing to the fact that the opportunities in the water sector aren’t in the stage they should be” said Sara.
One key solution which was developed from this conversation was that water organizations should offer capacity building to be able to address the needs of the youth working in the water sector.
“This sector is very diverse. It can’t be boxed in a certain expertise; it always goes beyond that. The job description itself needs to be adapted to the needs of the youth so they have potential to give back to this sector” said Sara
The continued theme in their conversations was the security and accessibility of the job market as a youth in water sector. Sara highlighted that often times positions are not long term, and youth are forced to spread themselves thin to get the experience they need to feel engaged. Additionally, jobs are often closed to them simply because they are youth.
“We’re always taken as we lack the expertise to take on these big jobs, but it could be done by us” said Sara.
Sara hopes in the future that the World Water Forum can be more integrative of youth spaces and continue to prioritize hearing these voices. As this was the starting point of curating a youth space, there is still a long way to go.
“What we want is that a young person has a say, has an influence with how we deal with the complexity of climate change” concludes Sara.
Going forward, this time next year in New York there will be held the first ever UN conference dedicated specifically to water. Sara hopes that youth will be given an opportunity to be a part of this discussion, and collaborate on meaningful solutions.