Providing a Voice for the Unheard
Emotional stories from people overcoming societal challenges to create clean water solutions provided inspiration to a full in-person audience and an estimated 200 individuals online during the Hearing the Unheard: the Human Right to Water and Sanitation event, held during New York Water Week.
Hearing the Unheard had the goal of bringing a voice to marginalized and grassroots groups. That was evident in many of the stories told, including that of Patricia Eduviges Silva. From the remote Mixteca Oaxaqueña region in Mexico, she would not be denied in bringing clean water to her home and surrounding community. Her story also proved to empower women in Mexico to take action, earn respect, and make a difference.
Silva explained that, as a young girl, she was too busy ensuring she had enough food to eat to realize that water was a human right. Upon returning to her hometown as an adult, the nurse became inspired to change the conditions in her community. She began to create a non-governmental organization (NGO) to help bring clean water to her region.
As if she didn’t have enough obstacles, Silva had to overcome her perception that only men could make significant changes. She could not be stopped, however. Silva developed a system to capture rainwater, using fellow women to make it a reality. Now, there are 82 such systems in her region. There are also countless women who believe they can change the lives of others.
Silva’s emotional story was one of many told during the event. Similar solutions to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene in areas from South America to Europe and Africa were told by live speakers, as well as through video stories.
Water is a human right
The stories emphasized the points made by Rio Hada, High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations (UN). Hada spoke of a road map from the UN for water and sanitation, and the fact that access to water as a human right is the bedrock of our society.
“This right to water can not be realized if we treat water as a common commodity. It is an absolute right and it is with the goal of fulfilling that right that we must address our solutions,” explained Hada.
Other speakers at the event included Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith, Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the United Kingdom; Isabella de Roldão, Vice-Mayor of Recife, Brazil; and Risimati Mathye, Deputy Director General, Department of Water and Sanitation, South Africa. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation also spoke during the eventHearing the Unheard is much more than one event. It goes beyond so a continual dialogue between state and non-state actors can be fostered. With that in mind, there is a digital campaign to raise awareness and ensure water is a human right for everyone.