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Youth for Integrity in Water and Sanitation (Integrity Talk 10)

The essential contributions of youth organisations in addressing water-related challenges and advocating for integrity in water governance

In many regions, passionate young people are contributing to youth groups and water parliaments. They have new networks, tools, technologies, and opportunities for learning. And, they are deploying these capabilities to ensure water stays on the agenda, to weigh in on decisions they are usually excluded from, and to proactively hold local authorities to account on their promises and the budgets they allocate to addressing water issues. In Integrity Talk 10, they shared some thoughts on their vision, their work, and their challenges.

This is a summary of the main discussion points of Integrity Talk 10 on youth engagement for water integrity, organized with the World Youth Parliament for Water. The event took place online on March 27, 2024.

person with long hair holding up a sign at a protest. The sign says 'It's my crisis too'.

With special guests: Cynthia Chigwenya, African Union Commission; Felix Brian, Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO); Charles Amenya, National Youth Water Parliament – Kenya; Boluwatito Awe, Nigerian Youth Parliament for Water, Amiya Prapan Chakra Borty (Arka), Dhrubotara Youth Development Foundation (DYDF).

Moderated by Johanna Arita, World Youth Parliament for Water


  • Youth parliaments have been instrumental in leveraging technology and social media to stimulate action from duty bearers and raise awareness about water issues, while promoting innovation in the sector.

  • Young leaders have been actively involved in initiatives of monitoring water service delivery, tracking election promises, and monitoring budgets. They have been raising awareness about water-related issues in communities and schools, advocating for policy changes, and sharing best practices for water management, advocacy, and research. This is crucial water integrity work.

  • Many youth networks emphasize capacity development, community awareness raising, and partnership. This is key to their sustainability. They have also proven their worth as partners for SDG6, especially in collaboration with local governments.

  • It is essential for institutions to support these youth networks - with funding, resources, access to information and networking opportunities - for action research and community-led development.

“We want to catalyse youthful but meaningful water conversations. We want to position young people as strategic partners and opinion shapers and not just beneficiaries. We understand that they hold a lot of knowledge, a lot of expertise we should tap into. There is flexibility, creativity, innovations and huge agency in youth groups."

- Felix Brian (KWAHO) 

Can you share input on how the context and need for youth advocacy on water is evolving, across Africa in particular?

(Cynthia Chigwenya)

There are four main points to highlight when considering the context for youth engagement, all connected to how governance, accountability, and human rights relate and impact on peace and security.

First people look to regional and international actors for action on basic service provision but one crucial actor is actually local government. Knowing this, it is important to look at the competency and human capital in local government. Only then can we reconsider accountability mechanisms at local level, before getting to accountability at national or regional levels. It’s also at the local level that we have to examine misuse of resources.

Second, we are increasingly living in a context where traditional methods to hold authorities accountable may be somewhat inefficient. People are using alternative methods of participation, including protest for example. This is however not evident when democratic standards are in decline. Third, we have to consider the influence of external actors championing work on some of the fundamental human rights that we have. We have look at how this influence is perceived by local government and how it affects governance.

Finally, climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. It doesn't affect just the African continent, but its impacts are disproportionate on the continent because of limited adaptive capacities. We do not have infrastructures to respond effectively.

How do the Youth Parliaments in Kenya, Nigeria, and Bangladesh work and promote transparency, accountability, and innovation in the water sector?

(Felix Brian, Charles Amenya, Boluwatito Awe, Amiya Prapan Chakra Borty)

Youth Parliaments across Kenya, Bangladesh and Nigeria are not set up and managed in the same way but they all have in common that they bring together water advocates who are not necessarily water sector professionals.

They focus on raising awareness with broad reach and using new networks, technology and (social) media. They are generally deeply engaged at local level, in communities, in schools. They all emphasise youth’s motivation, drive and their ability to innovate, adapt, and build partnerships that break silos in the sector and enable exchange of learnings and best practices. They all focus on accountability and see themselves as key players in promoting transparency.

In Kenya, Youth Parliaments are set up at county level. They also have a national umbrella parliament. Youth Parliaments focus on improving accountability, engaging in research, enhancing communication and coordination, networking with stakeholders, and building the capacity of youth groups in the water sector. They collaborate with different sectors, including the private , public , and government, to address water challenges and amplify research to back their arguments and influence the agenda and prioritise WASH issues in different forums. They monitor election promises related to water issues and participate in the development of water policies and bills.

“We were really lacking that opportunity to engage our decision makers and also drive the decisions that are being made around the water sector in this country. So the Youth Parliaments are seen an opportunity for young people to start understanding how to engage with policy leaders, how to engage with different platforms, present their pitch and solutions for the water sector. We are amplifying research to ensure we have evidence that can really back all our arguments. And we are also looking at accountability from every angle."

-Charles Amenya (National Youth Water Parliament, Kenya)

In Nigeria, the Youth Parliament for Water works with partners at different levels. The Youth Parliament collaborates with local communities to improve access toclean water and sanitation. They create awareness, implement projects, and advocate for the prioritisation of water at the local andnational level. They ensure youth from remote areas are heard, connected and have opportunities to share their work.

The Nigerian Youth Parliament for water also connects with international organisations like the World Youth Parliament for Water and the International Secretariat for Water. These international partnerships provide learning opportunities, cross-cultural collaboration, and sharing of best practices in water governance. Promoting transparency and accountability, especially in the allocation and use of public funds for water-related projects is a key element of the Parliament’work. For example, they have used data from organisations like BudgIT to assess public budgets in water with journalists and monitor what is actually being implemented in communities.

“As young people, we have to earn a living, we don’t all work in the water sector. We are sometimes limited in what we could do. There are challenges. So, we encourage people, we train and motivate youth leaders. (...) Young people are really important. They are crucial. They are advocates for change. We have the power. We have the zeal. We are not afraid to hold these older people accountable for the actions that they have committed to taking. Young people must be included in initiatives for water integrity."

-Boluwatito Awe (Nigerian Youth Parliament for Water)

In Bangladesh, the DYDF and youth parliament focus on advocacy and training. There is no continuous national parliament but rather consultation at the national level based on Youth Parliament work, sessions, and dialogues locally, rotating in different divisions of Bangladesh at district, committee, and community levels. The focus is on solving problems from the grassroots level. Youth Parliaments advocate for youth engagement, and as youth voice, on all kinds of different policies in conservation, WASH, IT, and more.

For example, through its work over five years, the Youth Parliament helped develop the national Youth Policy. By training youth leaders and raising awareness, they have also contributes to increasing the number of youth representatives in Parliament. Climate is now becoming an essential pillar of action.


How can we sustain the initial enthusiasm of youth engaging in Youth Parliaments, especially since so much of this work is voluntary?

Several ideas were highlighted:

  • Capacity building or training on skills that can ensure sustainability, for example fundraising, understanding local governance and decision-making processes, networking.

  • Building connections, especially with local governments .

  • Ensuring a baseline level of commitment, for example 30 minutes a day for water and the Youth Parliament.

Beyond funding, what other kind of support do youth organisations need for their integrity work?

Besides funding, what is most needed is networking opportunities and support from partners to learn about research, how to implement research, how to use research and data.

How can we make sure that youth perspectives are taken seriously and really taken into consideration?

There are two critical elements that can boost trust and support youth work: working directly with government, even to develop and execute certain activities, and partnerships. There is much more impact through partnerships than through work as an independent organisation tackling issues alone. Partnerships with youth in remote areas and organisations there is particularly useful.

Are young people more aware of corruption and are they willing to do more than before?

Yes! Youth Parliament events in Bangladesh have helped increase awareness in youth in the country for example. Across countries, social media has also played a big role. Young people today are more likely to directly go to government officials or the press and discuss issues.

There is better data and more evidence and youth are directly feeling the impact of corruption. Having the right information, the data, the evidence, is a key ingredient in the corruption conversation.

Photo: Markus Spiske, Unsplash


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