Blog.Apr 28, 2022

Paraguay: Youth central to water innovation

Youth participation was instrumental in conducting a climate risk-informed bottleneck analysis of the WASH sector in Paraguay, during first week of December 2021.

Youth participation is crucial for building a robust, resilient, and inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene sector, meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 6 goals, and proposing innovative approaches to the pressing challenges imposed by climate change. This was acknowledged by UNICEF Paraguay Country Office and the Directorate of Drinking Water and Sanitation of the Ministry of Public Works and Communications , who organsied a Risk-Informed WASH bottleneck analysis (WASH BAT) with the support from SIWI, in which youth leadership and participation played a significant role for its success.

What exactly is WASHBAT?

WASHBAT is short for Risk Informed Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Analysis tool. A Risk-Informed WASHBAT workshop is a multistakeholder platform and process which aims to identify the bottlenecks for provision of water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, acknowledging the impacts of climate change risks imposed in the sector, hindering its efficiency. In Paraguay, a group of climate experts constitute the Climate Risk Taskforce who analysed four main climate hazards to WASH services: floods, droughts, saline intrusion, and diseases caused or increased by climate change and extreme climatic events. The workshop covered five thematic sectors: rural water, urban water, rural sanitation, urban sanitation, and WASH in schools. The climate risk analysis was crosscutting to these sectors, being integrated into all the workshop sessions.

Workshop constituency

During this workshop, 50% of the participants were 35 years or young being, one of the biggest highlights in a country where most of the water sector is dominated by male senior professionals. Furthermore, 46% of the participants were women, and 30% of the participants were women 35 years or younger, while 20% were male participants 35 years or younger.

The workshop involved two youth-led and focused organisations, the Paraguayan National Youth Network for Water (Red Nacional de Jóvenes por el Agua Paraguay, in Spanish) and the School of Water Management of Misiones, Paraguay (Escuela Taller de Gestión del Agua de Misiones, in Spanish).

The National Youth Network for Water is a volunteer organisation supported by the Association of Defenders of the Chaco Pyporé (Asociación Defensores del Chaco Pyporé, in Spanish), with the goal to advocate for the conservation of protected areas and promote youth empowerment and leadership. Ten volunteer members from the National Youth Network for Water  acted as rapporteurs and facilitators, and actively engaged in all the discussions and sessions during the workshop.

The second youth focused organization was the School of Water Management of Misiones, Paraguay, from which twelve representatives actively engaged in the discussions and working tables. This is a project implemented by the Center for Environmental and Social Studies (Centro de Estudios Ambientales y Sociales, CEAMSO, in Spanish), the National Service for Environmental Sanitation (Servicio Nacional de Saneamiento Ambiental, SENASA in Spanish), the government of the department of Misiones and funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation. Its main goal is the practical and on-hands training of 90 youth leaders between 16 and 24 years, in skills and knowledge related to the maintenance of drinking water systems and improvement of sanitation and hygiene domestic services, to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of the Sanitation Boards.

“Over time, motivation gets lost along the way, but young people bring energy  and the desire to continue working for the WASH sector.”

A senior workshop participant

As mentioned, youth not only participated and was present during the workshop, but also had a very active role as facilitators and rapporteurs. This gave the workshop and discussions an active, innovative, and inspiring approach to the pressing challenges the WASH sector in Paraguay is currently facing.

An enriching experience for all

The Risk-Informed WASHBAT was very enriching experience for both young and senior professionals.

“I liked the discussions between institutional senior representatives and youth representatives from the School of Water Management of Misiones and the Youth Network for Water. Everyone played a very important role, sharing a working table to discuss different opinions, because all institutions have different perspectives, but being at the work table from that early age to hear first-hand was something very important because it does not always happen, and a synergy between generations was also sought. Working together is what leads us to attainable, tangible goals. Separated we can do nothing, but together we can achieve great things”.

-Representative from the National Youth Network for Water and rapporteur

“For us, young professionals, it is extremely important to access these spaces because it allows us to have a clearer vision of the sector, of the reality of the national context and above all how we can make concrete proposals, with the participation and support of the authorities to achieve an effective and more efficient management of the resources that lead to improving the water and sanitation system in our country”.

– Representative from the  National Youth Network for Water and rapporteur

Indeed, promoting the active participation and engagement of youth gives the workshop a fresh and innovative dynamic, contributing to intergenerational exchange of knowledge and creating synergies to overcome the most pressing challenges in the WASH sector.

The Ri-WASHBAT in numbers

  • 4 days of workshop
  • 5 sectors: rural water, urban water, rural sanitation, urban sanitation, and WASH in schools
  • 9 working tables
  • 77 institutions
  • 107 participants
  • 46% women
  • 50% youth (35 years or less)

The analysis, implemented through a multi-stakeholder dialogue, was organized by UNICEF Paraguay and the Directorate of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DAPSAN), with support from SIWI.