“Anyone who can solve the problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel prizes—one for peace and one for science.”
– President John F. Kennedy, 1962

Twenty two months after adoption, the pace of implementation must be significantly increased if we really hope to achieve the 2030 Development Agenda – unofficially known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Global Goals. Surprisingly, these priority goals are not only the result of the biggest consultation in United Nations (UN) history involving 83 national surveys and negotiation efforts around divides between countries in the Global South and Global North, but they will also improve the income and wellbeing of people around the globe.

At the center of this all and especially in developing societies, three pointers deserve sincere recognition and real action delivery: empowering girls and women so they have the same opportunities and rights men are given; access to clean water and improved sanitation; and strengthening the role of young people in sustainable development. Yes, I know the Global Goals are so linked. But do not take my word on these pointers at face value, take those of credible world influencers.

Speaking to Devex during the 2017 European Development Days, Dr. Alaa Murabit said, "You know, gender equality permeates in every way and a lot of people ask me what's the most important goal? And I can never give one because they are so interconnected . . . but what I can say is, there are a few that makes me sure unless we address them we won't even have a prosperous society in 2030 or 2040 and gender equality is at the top of that list." Dr. Murabit, 27, is a UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth and one of only 17 Sustainable Development Goal Global Advocates. 

In summer of 2016, the revolutionary project of UNESCO World Water Assessment Program (WWAP) reached its implementation phase. By developing and trying gender-disaggregated indicators with the aim of collecting data on hydric resources, WWAP’s toolkit has "particular reference to SDGs 5 (gender) and 6 (water and sanitation), which are interlinked with all the other SDGs.”

That's not all. For Ignatious Chiveso, 28 from Zimbabwe, with a collection of data to monitor the progress of the goals by young people, they will hold their leaders to account over the promises made. Working with young people through Act!2030 Alliance in Zimbabwe's 10 provinces, Chiveso was one of Restless Development’s Youth Advocates at the 2017 UN High Level Political Forum.

Well need I say more?

In my country Nigeria, there is a widespread humanitarian crises affecting the water sector in Northern parts. Families and communities are most hit by this water risk in Northeastern Nigeria, as well as the adjoining Lake Chad region. This is an unstable conflict zone currently facing climate-related impacts and in addition, extreme threats of drought and famine. There, women and girls are vulnerable, affected twice over and often accosted with extreme hardship, forced school skiving and limited education, little or no privacy during menstrual periods, and sexual abuse.

According to the UN, about 57 million people lack access to safe drinking water in Nigeria. Each year, waterborne illnesses kill around 1 million Nigerian children under the age of five. To improve their water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), more than 8.5 million people in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe state areas need collective and coordinated international aid – field mission reports by UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien says.

Even at scale, similar stats on affordable WASH access are not specific and so gender invisibility suffered by millions of women and girls in different household setups and communities are not known.

This foreign aid may just bring a burden to these dire northern Nigerian states: transparency of spent funds, guiding qualitative data, peace guarantees and lasting solutions will only be seen partly. Stakeholders and donor organizations can neither create resourced solution roadmaps nor gain serious insight into the water risk experienced unless they have a firm understanding of the various components of water stress – water scarcity, accessibility, environmental flows, water quality and sanitation services– as well as additional factors, such as water infrastructure, cultural and legislative discrimination, family structure and local governance.

To this end, sex-disaggregated hydric data – showing both male and female realities – and millennia’s in all their diversity, who are also tried forces for social cohesion and equity, need to be embraced as the combined key.

At Germany’s Deutshe Welle Blogger Award ceremony in Lagos last month, Ms Abraham Joy of Centre for Future Earth Works, and second place winner said, “Water unifies us into clans.” Now before the opportunity passes us by, there is a requirement to cross generational divides for both young and old alike. Demographic partnership and qualitative data research for sustainable development is everything.



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