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Celebration of Human Rights to Water and Sanitation Day

[ July 28, 2021 ]

Marking the Human Rights to Water and sanitation day,

Fresh Action Network South Asia (FANSA) organized a day-long webinar on 28th July 2021. The webinar was aimed to share and inspire the FANSA members to continue their engagement in integration of HRWS in WASH policies and programs. It was also intended to influence and lobby for better WASH facilities to the most vulnerable at various levels of policy making and implementation. Nearly 140 participants including FANSA members and sector stakeholders from South Asia and other regions participated in the workshop.

Lajana Manandhar, Regional Convenor of FANSA gave a welcome remark. She welcomed all the eminent speakers, participants, CSOs, community leaders and the FANSA members. She spoke about the importance of 28th July as on this day UN formally recognized water and sanitation as human rights and this is a key milestone in the sector. This is the day of significance therefore FANSA had organized this webinar to celebrate human rights wo water and sanitation. She also spoke about the preparation of policy brief by FANSA which is to be launched in this webinar.

She also shared her own personal experience and engagement in the WASH sector started in 1987 in Papua New Guinea where she had worked with the women slum dwellers organising a hygiene education class for them and later working in Lalitpur in Nepal working with the poor women to build private toilets at their houses. She shared her concerns that even after 11 years of declaration of human rights to water and sanitation no significant achievement is made to close the gap of inequity and injustice in accessing WASH facilities. She emphasized on a need for the sector partners to work together, to share experience and inspire each other to achieve SDGs and human rigths to water and sanitation of the marginalised communities.

On the occasion, the policy brief "Voices of the Vulnerable on WASH Services" was launched by the chief guest by Ms. Bimala Tamang which is followed by the presentation on the Policy Brief by the Regional Coordinator of FANSA Dr. Dr. Snehalatha Mekale. Dr Mekala briefly introduced FANSA explaining its functions, vision, mission and with a mention that FANSA is a platform to link between local and global actors

Immediately after the launching of the policy brief, series of presentations focusing on the perspectives and experiences of the stakeholders from six South Asian countries was made. The session was facilitated by Dr. Seetharam Mysore, Regional Steering Committee Member of FANSA. The presenters for the session were Prof. Ainun Nishat from Bangladesh, Mr. Ugen Lhendup, the National Convenor of FANSA Bhutan, Dr. Rajendra Singh from India, Dr. Sanjeeb Bickram Rana from Nepal, Mr. Sana Baloch, Member of Parliament, Provincial Government from Balochistan, Pakistan and Mr Ananda Jayaveera, Technical/WASH Advisor from Ministry of Water Supply, Sri Lanka.

On the occasion, Ms. Vanita Suneja, Regional Advocacy Manager from WaterAid, congratulating FANSA for organising this important session on Water and Sanitation, gave emphasize on women’s right to access water and sanitation facilities as we all understand the amount of time women are spending in collecting water and the problems, they face not having access to toilet in South Asia. Lastly, she made two points, to consider gender issues as central to working on Human Rights to water and sanitation, and to consider biodiversity conservation to promote water as a natural resource.

Mr Sitali Muyatwa, Head of Country Engagement from SWA, delivering his remarks said, the Policy Brief launched today is timely and extremely important, useful and insightful. The endorsement of HRTWS is an important achievement as there was issues/challenges related to 'equality' despite of the successful achievement of the MDG goals related to water and sanitation that was duly achieved in the MDG period. He mentioned two action points that in order to achieve HRTWS the critical actors have to come forward with their commitments, and to initiate review the processes and accountability measures so that gaps and challenges are identified and addressed.

Mr Tom Palakudiyil, Board Member, Anti-Slavery International; Vice Chair, Dalit Solidarity Network from UK talked about this happiness to join this celebration to mark the milestone achievement of HRTWS as the rights for every human-being – whether rich and poor, or residing in developed countries or in developing countries or in the least developed countries- but for everyone.

The Chief Guest of the webinar, Ms Bimala Tamang, Chairperson of Nepal Mahila Ekta Samaj expressed her happiness to be invited to launch an important document. She hoped that vulnerable people in other countries also do have an opportunity to put their voices in the important occasions. She is pleased and delighted to have been given the opportunity to launch the important Policy Brief and expressed her sentimental feelings and having touched by it.

Delivering the concluding remarks Mr R. Murali, Regional Steering Committee of FANSA stressed a need to work for continuity to raise political commitment for WASH. He said, this is because the UN Human Rights Resolution on WASH was already passed in 2010, yet, except Nepal, no other countries in South Asia have shown their commitment to HRTWS through legislatures. So, the work is to be continued in this line.

Regional Convenor Ms. Lajana Manandhar expressed her vote of thanks to all the speakers and participants for their contribution time for the session. She expressed that she is very happy to get all the support from the speakers, specialists and FANSA colleagues for the success of the program and expressed sincere thanks to all of them. With this remark for vote of thanks, she formally announced the closure of the program.