The Youth Dialogue, among other goals, was meant to raise awareness among the youth on SDG 6; drive youth engagement and enhance meaningful participation that influences youth’s policy decisions towards achieving SDG 6 by 2030. The Dialogue was also to help the youth identify challenges and opportunities available to them in the Zambia water sector and propose strategies to enhance youth career pathways and vocational options related to water security and climate-resilient investments.
“Today, I stand not only as a professional in this field but also as a firm believer in the power of the youth, particularly the vocal Zambian youth. Our generation holds the key to shaping a brighter and more sustainable future. Our passion, our dedication, and our innovative spirit are essential in driving transformative change and making the SDG 6 a reality for all,” said one youth, Natasha Mumba.
Youth discuss their role in achieving SDG 6
The Youth Dialogue was conducted under the Continental Africa Water Investment Programme (AIP) Water Climate Development and Gender Transformation (WACDEP-G) Support Programme. The activity is part of the GWP Zambia’s support to the Government of the Republic of Zambia in the implementation of the Zambia Water Investment Programme (ZIP) which was launched in July 2022 to leverage USD 5.75 billion in investments in water security and sustainable water utilisation.
The Dialogue responds to Component 6 of the Zambia Water Investment Programme; ‘Gender Equality and Social Inclusion’ with one of its investment priorities being ‘Youth Development and Empowerment through Water Security and Sanitation Investments’. The component is intended to support the youth build careers in the water sector through life skills development and resilience building for youths, youth entrepreneurship and vocational skills training, advanced water education for youths, and business linkages for youth-led water related enterprises.
“Youth are agents of change. They have distinct voices and needs that can be brought in and heard during national, regional, and global participatory processes. They are future leaders, and they have a right to be engaged now on the critical issues which they will inherit,” explained Chama Mundia, a youth representative who also attended the Dialogue.
During her opening remarks, Dr. Nawa Shalala Mwale, Executive Secretary - GWP Zambia and Gender Advisor for GWP Zambia and Southern Africa said that GWP attaches great importance to youth involvement around Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG6.
“The GWP Youth Engagement Strategy draws attention to the importance of engaging youth in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable economic development while supporting youth-led approaches for advancing water security. GWP Zambia appreciates the Zambian Government’s efforts in prioritising the role that youths play in the development process and GWP will continue working with the government through mandated institutions to ensure that the national development plans and goals are achieved,” said Dr. Mwale.
During the Dialogue, the following presentations were made:
- Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation on the ‘Zambia Water Investment Programme and how Youth Involvement can drive the Programme Implementation’;
- Ministry of Youth, Sports and Arts on the ‘Overview of the National Youth Programmes: Opportunities for the Water Sector’;
- Africa SDG Centre on ‘SDG Targets and Indicators: The Role of Youth in the Attainment of SDG 6’; and
- WaterAid Zambia on ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Youth Participation in Attaining SDG 6 and other related SDGs’.
The presentations were accompanied by respective plenary sessions which allowed participants to discuss and provide feedback at length.
The Youth Dialogue also included a Panel Discussion which centred on Experiences in Implementing Youth led Interventions from Youth in the Zambian Water Sector.
Youth hold a Panel Discussion during the Youth Dialogue
The participants of the Dialogue were also engaged in group work where they were deliberating on the strategies to enhance youth career pathways and vocational options related to water security and climate-resilient investments. The youths highlighted key challenges that they face which included:
- Lack of capacity building/skills training
- Lack of water hub and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) resource centres
- Lack of transparency regards to internship opportunities
- Lack of resources for youth-led non-profit organisations
- Poor incentives leading to skills flight
- Youths working in silos
- Lack of mentors/ mentorship programmes for young WASH professionals
- Lack of career fairs at learning institutions to motivate students to join the Water sector.
The youths made the following recommendations for the Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation and stakeholders:
- Should use a multisectoral approach to youth engagement;
- Identify and present WASH opportunities to youths;
- Promote intergenerational dialogues between young WASH professionals and the more experienced WASH professionals;
- Promote awareness creation on the water sector;
- Encourage youth networking in the sector;
- Provide graduate trainings exchange programmes and other capacity-building programmes;
- Strengthen inclusive and robust policies that support women and youth; and engage the youth in all project programming while ensuring compliance of current systems that address gender equality and youth participation; and
- Government should take the leading role in addressing challenges faced in the water sector while stakeholders complement the government in the implementation process.
In presenting the official statement from the Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation, Eng. Flora Simumba - Director for Water Resources Development, commended GWP Zambia for convening the Youth Dialogue, stating that the initiative was a true reflection that water affects everyone, therefore, all the actors should be brought on board and take action.
“The Ministry is ready to build strong partnerships through such initiatives with the youths. The Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation takes a keen interest in the contribution of the youths in the water sector; and the Youth dialogue presents a platform for strengthening collaboration and partnerships in the management of water resources,” said Eng. Simumba.