Ms Mendy Shozi, a research assistant in UKZN’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Research and Development (WASH R&D) Centre represented South Africa at the 5th General Assembly of the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) and the 9th World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal.
Shozi, who is President of the recently launched South African Chapter of the WYPW, joined other young leaders in the water and sanitation space to advocate for youth inclusive global development in the quest to ensure water security.
The WYPW was established in 2002 as a network of young people collaborating for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – to provide clean water and sanitation for all – at all levels by developing concrete action plans to be proposed to the United Nations General Assembly and advocating for youth participation in the water sector. Seeing youth as a vector for change, the WYPW involved its delegates in several Forum events to convey young people’s commitment and ideas to improve water and sanitation globally.
‘As the youth will inherit the world’s environmental problems, they need to be involved in decisions and processes that manage and govern our water security,’ said Shozi.
The WYPW 5th General Assembly included sessions and workshops that provided opportunities for 60 aspiring water leaders from around the world to meet, network and develop advocacy messages and long-term strategic plans, and present the advocacy messages at the Forum Youth Space.
Participants also met actors in the Senegalese water sector to learn more about water issues affecting the West African country, and about the management of key resources such as the Senegal River. During the programme, water supply techniques were explored as well as the challenges posed to achieving SDG 6 that will need the attention of the next generation of water leaders.
At the Forum, Shozi was involved in facilitating and reporting a session on youth voices on the future of water research, the culmination of a campaign called Youth Voices where a working paper, which Shozi co-authored, was released to provide a youth vision for inclusive water research.
The World Water Forum exhibitions included a Sanitation Village with stands displaying sanitation solutions, and sessions were themed according to issues such as water and jobs.
Shozi was also involved in a Women for Water Partnership flash mob at the Forum to draw attention to the space for dialogue between young female professionals and prospective employees.
Shozi’s role in the WYPW is voluntary, and she is also part of the Water Institute of Southern Africa’s Young Water Professional Empowerment Platform, where she serves on the KwaZulu-Natal committee and as finance and activity lead for a term of two years. She joined the WASH R&D Centre (then the Pollution Research Group) in November 2018 after working for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
At the WASH R&D Centre, Shozi is working on sustainable water and sanitation solutions for less developed and low-income countries and communities by applying transdisciplinary principles and a circular economy approach.
‘Africa is the world’s youngest population, and as part of this community, I feel it is up to us to ensure that sustainability practices are in place for a healthier planet for all,’ she said.
Words: Christine Cuénod