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Love and Friendship Across the Water Borders

September 23rd, 2018 by Posted in Uncategorized

 

By Priodarshine Auvi, River Basin Coordinator- TROSA Program

12322574_10206663411455184_2068228921432870904_o“I do all the household chores including fetching drinking water, washing, cooking, looking after children and the elder person, and livestock rearing in my family that are all related to water. But when it is about taking a decision about water allocation and usage, I am hardly invited to participate in any public meeting, let alone getting involved in any sort of decision-making process at all. It is the men who know better than me and they take the decision for our village.”

I came across this comment while I was talking to few village women at a community consultation in Bangladesh. I wanted to know what do women in rural Bangladesh think about water governance.

“Water Governance” is something very complex for these women who did not get adequate opportunity to go to school or to get higher education. Many of these village women are sufferers of early of forced marriage and lost the confidence to raise their voice against any irregularities in their family and society. But it is true that “Women” are the prime users of “Water” in their family and society. This two “W”s always complement each other but hardly recognized by the patriarchal society.

Keeping this in the backdrop Oxfam initiated a regional program entitled ‘Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA)’. This is a five-year regional program (2017-2021) funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and jointly implemented by Oxfam and its partners in the region to promote water governance keeping “Love”, “Trust”, and “Friendship” in the forefront of all our works addressing the challenges to co-create the conditions to reduce poverty in river communities in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, and the Salween basins in four countries: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Nepal.

Throughout its overall approach, TROSA is emphasizing on basin-wide coordination from local, national, and regional level in association with multiple stakeholders like the governments, private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), community, media, and the inter-governmental organizations. To reduce the poverty and vulnerabilities of these trans-boundary riverine communities TROSA is concentrating more on developing a friendly relationship between the riverine communities in two countries like communities living in Mahakali/Sharda basin in Nepal and India through communication, coordination, and celebration. To create the convergence among the communities “Empowering Women” and “Engaging Youth” in water governance are the two focused areas where the program is working on. As women are responsible for maintaining basic household hygiene and keeping themselves and their children clean without contaminating the stored water, they need for drinking and cooking, and women and girls often spend up to 6 hours every day fetching water (source: UN-Water) therefore, it is important to empower women and mainstream them throughout the relationship building process in water governance. Thus, the vulnerabilities of women regarding water across the boundary are same.

On the other hand, the majority of the world’s youths live in Asia. According to UNFPA, the total population of the age group between 10 to 24 India is 356 million (source: UNFPA). As the “Future Flag Bearer” youths are one of the potential target groups where the program can blow the energy and smell of “Friendship” in the air across the borders through organizing camps, celebrating days, and cross-learning sharing process.

For example establishment of Community Based Flood Early Warning System (CBFEWS) is one of the activities of TROSA where community people especially women and youth played a dynamic role in disseminating the information on upcoming flood from upstream to downstream. South Asia is vulnerable to natural disasters especially flood, cyclone, earthquakes, and droughts with greater frequency and intensity. During the recent years, countries in the region have endured a series of catastrophic disasters compounding their pains of poverty (Source: ndma) and increasing the vulnerabilities to resistance. Therefore, from the community consultation, it has been identified that the flood is one of the most appalling disasters which affects the lives and livelihoods of the riverine community in South Asia almost every year. According to Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), in recent flood in Assam, India 716 villages are under water, and 3,292 hectares (32.92 square kilometres) of crop area have been damaged (Source: thethirdpole.net).

In this consequence through the establishment of CBFEWS, TROSA tried to set-up a linkage from local to regional platforms where all the dots will be connected to hear the grassroots voices. In association with one of the regional partners, ICIMOD, a CBFEWS has been installed in Rangoon River, Mahakali basin in Dadeldhura district of Nepal in June 2018 after a rigorous consultation process with the community from both side in India and Nepal. It is a people-centered, timely, simple and low-cost technology that disseminates information to the vulnerable communities from upstream to downstream through a network of communities and government bodies. It is expected that, a properly designed and implemented system can save lives and reduce property loss by increasing the lead time to prepare and respond to flood on ground level in the downstream. In one report of ICIMOD, it has been mentioned that, through proper implementation of CBFEWS livestock in the downstream was saved up to USD 3,300. From social network perspectives, the flow of information is like a marriage between the communities in “upstream and downstream” which leads to the empowerment and confidence building of the community, co-creating knowledge, and partnering across the boundaries. Most of the time, the program tries to appoint women as the caretaker of the overall system which helps to empower them and to enhance their skill and capacity as a process of gender mainstreaming. This learning and experience were shared in the “South Asian Regional Collaborative Platform” on “Early Warning System” on 07 September 2018 in New Delhi, India that was participated by the relevant government line ministries, private sectors, CSOs, academics, and media from the South Asian Countries.

Like this there are so many actions TROSA is carrying out to step ahead to promote transboundary “Love” and “Friendship” among the communities in South Asia through the convergence of activities and celebration, empowering women and youth, and sharing cross-learnings. It is the people, who will create the synergy of “Love” and “Friendship” across the boundary in terms of water governance to reduce the poverty and vulnerabilities they have.

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