Blog post written by Aishling Lennon, of EWP member Aidlink, Ireland in February 2016.
Once again, Aidlink are delighted to be part of End Water Poverty’s worldwide campaign to call for action to tackle the global water and sanitation crisis. Here’s a really brief update from the Aidlink team outlining our plans this Water Action Month.
March 2016 is turning out to be a really busy month here in Ireland! With St. Patrick’s Day, early Easter schools holidays and national celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising (considered the start of the Irish independence movement), there are tonnes of extra activities happening in schools and communities across the country this March. As we compete for time and space in the Irish calendar, we have had to schedule some of our activities for April- it’s becoming “Water Action Season” here at Aidlink!
As I write today (February 26th) the Irish electorate are going to the polls to vote in a general election and, for a significant number of voters, “water” will be a deciding factor in choosing a candidate. The introduction of water charges in 2015 has remained a divisive issue, with significant protests occurring throughout the country over the last 12 months. Some parties and politicians are now platforming “water as a human right” and pledging to abolish water charges if elected, others see the recent introduction of water charges as a means of encouraging water conservation and raising the necessary funds to pay for our water service. Whatever your political persuasion, “water” undoubtedly remains a national issue in Ireland today.
Here at Aidlink our Water Action Month will again focus on raising awareness of water poverty in the Global South, by engaging with young people through our schools outreach programme. This year we are really excited to have more schools involved, and we are aiming for about 2000-2500 student participants. Some schools are taking on the campaign as part of their CSPE (Civics, Social and Political Education) project, others are incorporating the campaign into geography class, P.E class or social justice groups. Our campaign centres on “Awareness, Advocacy and Access”, with each school organising a “Walk for Water” where students walk through their community carrying water in buckets, saucepans, bottles, and watering cans, and displaying posters and banners, in an act of solidarity with children who experience water poverty throughout the world (all water is disposed of responsibly e.g. into flower pots). The students invite local media and local politicians to attend, raising awareness of the global water and sanitation crisis and calling on leaders to take action now.
Kenya and Uganda
In Kenya and Uganda we will also be celebrating Water Action Month. In both countries Aidlink works to deliver water and sanitation improvements through building wells, latrines, and primary school water facilities. We also believe that this work must be supported by higher level advocacy to ensure sustainable change. We would like to extend huge thanks to our local partners who have been advocating for water justice for their communities throughout Kenya and Uganda and who are working hard to make our 2016 Water Action Month mobilisations our biggest yet, with an anticipated 8,000 participants.
In Uganda we will have one very special mobilisation taking place this Water Action Month. Back in 2012, when we joined End Water Poverty’s former Walk for Water campaign, we began working with St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Rush, Co. Dublin. This March we have fantastic news; as part of Aidlink’s Development Education programme, a group of 27 students from St. Joseph’s in Dublin will travel to Masaka, Uganda to participate in a school immersion project. There, the students from Ireland will attend school for a week in Archbishop Kiwanuka Secondary School, and experience the day to day school life of their Ugandan peers. We are so proud that on March 23rd the Irish and Ugandan students will celebrate Water Action Month together. The students will walk through Masaka to attend a town meeting with local government officials, and call for an end to the water and sanitation crisis, and demand water justice for all!
For us, this is really one of the major success stories of the campaign so far. For the past number of years, students from the Dublin school have walked in solidarity with their peers in Uganda celebrating World Water Day. This year they walk side by side to call for change! We couldn’t be happier at this incredible opportunity to unite for a better future.
So it’s now the end of February and we are just at the beginning of the campaign, but as always, we are looking forward to making some serious noise to demand water and sanitation for all this year!