As we celebrate World Water Day, Daniel Miller-Moran, EWB field professional with Plan International, shares some of the ways we are working for Sustainable Development Goal 6 to ensure all Timorese have access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services by 2030.
EWB Australia realised early on that one of the best ways for Timor-Leste to reach SDG6 is to build the knowledge, skills and opportunities of WASH organisations working in the local sector, and to do so with a special focus on the inclusion and engagement of young professionals and women.
After completing studies in architecture, Timorese graduate Silvano Branco took part in EWB’s Professional Skills Development program in 2016, undertaking an internship to build his professional experience and improve his employment opportunities. Silvano performed so well during his internship that he was rewarded with a full-time position at Plan International as a procurement support officer for the WASH team.
Silvano now plays a key role in the Sustainable Water in Municipality (SWiM) project which is striving to develop rural communities’ capacity to manage their own water supply in the mountainous district of Aileu, Timor-Leste. As the EWB WASH field professional I also work with the SWiM team to develop their technical skills – including training in and use of water surveying app ‘mWater’ to conduct baseline surveys of 27 villages’ water systems in Aileu.
The photo above shows Silvano (pictured top left) engaged in the design, procurement and installation phases of a water supply system design for rural Timor-Leste. This particular system has hundreds of direct beneficiaries – giving access to clean water and freeing up time traditionally used for water collection to pursue other economic and educational activities.
Only delivering water supply systems does not translate to sustainable water delivery. To this end, the SWiM project team has spent considerable effort restructuring, training and supporting local Water Management Groups to be able to oversee small repairs, ensure water safety and collect tariffs to guarantee the whole community has access to clean water for years to come.
A real achievement for the SWiM team though was in engaging a local women’s empowerment group known as FADA, to deliver leadership training to female community members, before elections were held to appoint members to the local Water Management Groups.
The training ensured that women had the skills and knowledge to undertake management roles, increasing from 32% to 50% the percentage of women holding these positions in the local Water Management Groups. Picured above (with me top right) are newly elected female members of a local Water Management Group drafting up their own rules to protect and conserve their water supply. Supporting increased agency for women to manage their own water supplies has been shown to improve sustainable water supply, leading to important outcomes of communities such as a reduction in the prevalence of child malnutrition.
Reaching SDG6 requires a strong national WASH sector, but it is not all about technical solutions. Being inclusive of committed local stakeholders such as women and young technical professionals, builds a foundation of skills that can sustain lasting positive change.
This story has been shared by Daniel Miller-Moran, currently an EWB WASH Field Professional working with Plan International in Timor Leste.
This program is supported by ANCP and Australia Aid.