The abundance of river basins and aquifers into Brazil’s borders – including the Guarani Aquifer, the largest underground aquifer in the world – is amazing. As the most “water-rich” country in the world, Brazil detains approximately 16% the global freshwater reserves and, because of this, access to this valuable asset shouldn’t be a problem for us, right?
However, poor infrastructure of our water system’s delivery, the degradation of environmentally protected areas, side effects of climate change, and bad resource management set the scene for this huge contradiction: while we hold nearly a fifth of world’s water reserves, water scarcity is still a reality for millions of Brazilians, especially women and young people who are most vulnerable to this sensitive issue.
That is why we at Engajamundo decided that taking a stand and doing something to involve Brazilian youth in the discussions around water resources was part of our obligation as a youth-led NGO. Besides, since we knew that the World Water Forum 2018 would take place in Brazil for the first time in history, we were sure there was no better moment to take action and make our voices heard!
The role of young people in water governance
We believe that young people can and should be part of the solution to overcome challenging social and environmental issues. As a result, we felt that some of the most pressing water issues could not be tackled if Brazilian youth did not see themselves as active citizens ready to reclaim their rights as empowered advocates in local and national water governance systems.
Recognizing this fundamental factor, we started a campaign in the middle of 2017, engaging young people in 10 Brazilian cities – covering the five different regions of the country – to share concerns around local water problems, raise public awareness and, most of all, provide Brazilian youth the knowledge and abilities for effective participation in water management. As you can see through our campaign video, Brazilian youth have a lot to say on water issues and we are really committed to turn these voices into strong, meaningful youth engagement in decision-making spaces.
Since then, we have been organizing activism actions and street interventions, and proposing capacity building sessions for young people so they can discuss the key issues and learn tools to take part in water management and advocate for new local water policies.
This week, as 15 youth advocates are in the 8th World Water Forum representing their peers in the battle for better water management and policies, we expect that Brazilian leaders and international decision-makers get the message behind our efforts.
Our agenda is as straightforward as it can be: water should be treated as a human right and its access should be entrenched in public policies that take into account the needs and the visions of young people. We will not rest until the spaces in which decisions about water resources are maid are genuinely representative of the diversity of our voices.
Lucas Maximo is Engajamundo’s Sustainable Cities Working Group Coordinator and a Youth Power Global Leader from Brazil.