In conversation with GWPSA’s first youth Board representative

Global Water Partnership is committed to creating a space for youth at the table where decisions on water resources management are made. The GWP Strategy 2020-2025, which guides all of GWP Southern Africa’s work, provides for youth participation in all programming.

Following the amendment to the constitution, by the GWPSA Board and Consulting Partners to include a youth representative on the Steering Committee, GWPSA has welcomed its first youth representative to its Board; Ms. Dina Ravaka Ramaromandray from Madagascar. Her appointment also comes two years after GWPSA supported the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with the launch of the Youth Innovation Network, which will increase youth participation in the sector. 

Ms. Dina Ravaka Ramaromandray (D.R) is currently the SADC Water Energy Food Nexus Youth Innovation Network (SAYWIN) representative for Madagascar. A lawyer by profession, Ms Ramaromandray is currently employed as Director: Legal Affairs and Litigation in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in that country. In addition, she was  a member of the Groupe de Reflexion sur l'Energie (GRE) , a focus group on energy that gathers all experts of the energy sector. In 2016, with the support of the GRE, she co-founded a movement called "Malagasy Youth Against Climate Change" that wants to involve young Malagasy people in the process of tackling climate change. GWPSA engaged her in conversation regarding her recent appointment and her views on the youth’s position in the water sector.

GWPSA: How do water scarcity and climate change affect the lives of youth and what can the youth do around these issues?

D.R: I live in Madagascar, an island surrounded by water. We see the effects of climate change impacts daily. Sometimes we think of water as something that will always be there, but it is slowly decreasing, rainfall is decreasing, and this affects our daily lives. We cannot talk about water in isolation, but we must think of other dependent areas such as agriculture and hydro-electric power generation.

In terms of governance, decision-makers should make more impact on the ground. The Continental Africa Water Investment Programme’s goals and objectives are an answer to these water and climate challenges. Youth should think about the present and the future and be present at all levels of decision making in both the private and public sectors. My joining the GWPSA Board is an example of youth involvement in water and climate change issues.

GWPSA: How will your participation in the GWPSA Board benefit the youth that you are representing?

D.R: It is a great honour and responsibility to be a spokesperson for the youth on the GWPSA Board. I want to understand what is happening in terms of high-level decision making and policy formulation, as well as on the ground, where the projects are being implemented.

I have chosen to be part of the programmes committee despite being a lawyer so that I can learn the most to help youth manoeuvre their way through projects.

I am living proof that there is a will to have women and young people in positions of influence, that youth are being given an opportunity to have a voice in water issues. I do not want to be just a number or quota, but I want to participate and be the voice of youth in the sector, to push the youth agenda further.

GWPSA: How can we incentivise Africa’s youth to participate in the water sector?

D.R: One of the biggest challenges we face in the water sector, is that we think of it as a public service. It is not bankable at times to do business in water, that’s why youth are not keen to invest or work in water.

We need to involve youth in decision making in both the public and private water sectors. To do this, we need to support youth financially by providing seed funding for proof-of-concept water innovations. Young people struggle to secure funding, especially when their projects are still at a prototype stage.

There is a need to build capacity among the youth on how to raise funds, as well as with the monitoring and evaluation of projects. There should be more advocacy towards the funding of youth projects and more incentives to attract the youths to water.

GWPSA: What do you think should be done to reach the youth and make their voices heard?

D.R: In programme implementation, the focus must be on young women because women have a big role in general water supply and management in the home.

GWPSA: Do you think there are enough young women represented in water and climate issues?

D.R: Madagascar has made huge strides in involving women and youth in influential positions, especially in the water sector. The Minister of water is female, and I was Director of Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Energy, Water and Hydrocarbons for two years, before joining the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in the same capacity.

However, I feel that more must be done in the areas of gender and youth inclusion in the water sector regionally. Youth should also step up and be seen; they should make an impact whenever they are given the opportunity and not just be part of a quota.

GWPSA: What is your opinion on the Continental Africa Water Investment Programme (AIP)?

D.R: The AIP is a very interesting approach, focusing on water investments and job creation. I am very happy that it is now being implemented and that it will benefit the whole continent, particularly through creating jobs for the youth.

GWPSA: As a representative of SAYWIN, how do you foresee SAYWIN complementing the AIP?

D.R: I see a lot of people in the network who are working on great projects and trying to find solutions in terms of job creation. We have a lot of talent in terms of young people in SAYWIN with expertise and their projects. I also see a lot of women in the SAYWIN participating in water issues, so I see SAYWIN and AIP working well together because of the AIP approach which encompasses the youth.