"The Youth Sector - an Explosion of Energy and Hope"

12 August marks International Youth Day - the 2019 theme is “transforming education”, highlighting efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth. GWP launched its Youth Engagement Strategy in 2015 and has since then been actively pursuing various youth initiatives. Coinciding with International Youth Day, GWP's new Youth Engagement Specialist, Rianna Gonzales, takes up her new position in the GWP secretariat in Stockholm, Sweden. She describes the youth sector as “an explosion of energy and hope."

The first big event where Rianna will be the face of GWP’s youth engagement activities, is Stockholm World Water Week, which takes place 25-30 August. On Tuesday 27 August (9.00-10.30), GWP is co-convener of a session on “Join the Youth for the World Water Forum Dakar 2021", and on the same day (14.00-18.15) GWP and its Partners in the Youth for Water and Climate Platform are in charge of the Young Professionals Booth. On the same day (14.00-15.30), GWP Mediterranean is also co-convening a session on the topic “MENA Focus: Mediterranean Youth Unites Around Water”. On Thursday 29 August (9.00-10.30), GWP Central and Eastern Europe is co-convening a session on the topic “How can intergenerational dialogue facilitate youth inclusion in decision making?”.

Get to know Rianna

Who are you? Please give a short background on yourself.

  • My name is Rianna Gonzales and I am the Youth Engagement Specialist for Global Water Partnership (GWP). My home country is Trinidad and Tobago, a small twin island Republic in the Caribbean.  My educational background is environmental management and I have a Masters Degree in Coastal Engineering. I have been advocating for youth inclusion in sustainable development and working the water sector to implement a more integrated approach to water management and good governance for over ten years. On a lighter side I have four dogs and I enjoy photography and drawing.

What made you want to take on the challenge of Youth Engagement Specialist for GWP?

  • The youth sector is an explosion of energy and hope. When I listen to young people, their ideas, their determination to be better and to make the world better, you want to be part of that. It is so easy to become very cynical when working in the development sector and experiencing struggles and obstacles to get things done. These young global citizens are challenging the status quo and are disruptive in every sector. They are influencers; they are making big impacts in innovation, advocacy and community improvement. This is what we need now and I want to help push that fire and passion forward, to give their ideas an opportunity to become reality and to amplify their voices onto the ears of the decision makers. GWP has shown that it is willing to invest in youth and make it a priority. The creation of this position shows their commitment to the youth voice and their global network puts them in a perfect position to do so. Our goals align, and so now I have a job that is also my passion, not everyone is that lucky.   

What is your vision/hope for the new role?

  • My vision is simple to create opportunities to mobilise and build capacity of young people to effectively participate and contribute to good water management, improved governance and a change in water culture.

The theme of International Youth Day 2019 is “transforming education” – do you see a need for this in the “water world”?

  • The world is changing before us, in the blink of an eye there is some new technology being announced or some new challenge that we need to overcome. Yet we try to use the same conventional solutions to solve these new problems. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” We are teaching the same thing in the same manner to the up and coming generation that was used to teach our grandparents, but is that beneficial, effective or productive? Our world is changing, and we cannot depend on the old way of doing things to solve new problems because our old world doesn’t exist anymore. Just like in the water world we cannot continue moving forward with the status quo because the conventional solutions are not working. The constants are now changing. We have to adapt our mindset to our shifting environment. We need to move beyond silo thinking, we need to move beyond our own individual interests, we need to merge traditional knowledge with modern innovation and technology. We all need to accept that we cannot continue to do as we always did because the world and our water resources isn’t what it once was. We need transformation in our thinking, our actions, and our culture. It is not change for the sake of change but to evolve our thinking for our own survival.