Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Kris wrote:

To summarize: the entire current setup isn't suitable for de-colonization, and current efforts are at most going to divert some
more funding from the global north into just as colonizing but maybe
superficially (as in skin color only) more diverse setups, likely
involving a lot of people that are even less self-motivated to solve the
issues in question. Hence, in my personal opinion it is probably better to accept current global north institutions (as bad and non-diverse as they are) but push for more open / patent free access to knowledge.

Already we have dwindling funding in the WASH sector, would you rather fix the system challenges or continue having no value for money invested by donors  in developing countries?
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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

I am attaching Depinder Kapur's thought piece on the subject as well : www.ircwash.org/blog/decolonisation-wash...g-institutional-bias

I am just so glad that this discussion is really changing institution operations.
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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Discussionson decolonisation are quite sensitive and un-comfortable but we have to raise
the tough questions to move forward. It is also important for us as WASH
practitioners to take responsibility in making sound judgement of agenda from a
triangulated perspective and not face value.

Regardingyour questions, in my speech I had attempted to answer how we can resolve this
similar to what contributors on this topic. I am also attaching reads on
the same. On your second question, referring to my article on medium I believe knowledge
must be shared. In the spirit of development work, stopping the North aid or
trade to Africa to address de-colonisation will be more of responding to a
mosquito bite with a hammer. Also in my closing of the speech I indicated that
we work in the spirit of Ubuntu, meaningI am because we are – Humanity is one! - We need each other; SDG 17 affirms this. SDG 10 and SDG 16 underscore reducing inequalities, issues to do with inclusion and so on overall upholding the necessity of decolonisation.

  https://wash.leeds.ac.uk/what-the-f-how-we-failed-to-publish-a-journal-special-issue-on-failures/

https://realkm.com/2018/08/09/how-do-we-fix-the-worlds-very-unequal-knowledge-and-knowledge-management-map/

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/its-time-to-put-an-end-to-supremacy-language-in-international-development/#disqus_thread

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13613324.2019.1679751?tab=permissions&scroll=top

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jul/17/african-businesses-black-entrepreneurs-us-investors

https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html#

https://beyonddevelopment.net/about-the-global-working-group-beyond-development/   
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  • Elisabeth
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  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Thank you Euphresia for joining us here on the forum to field our questions, and thanks to Annemarieke and all for speaking up, even if it's painful and risky. I am really glad this discussion is now continuing. I had posted in this thread in June (see on page 1) and was feeling a bit frustrated as to the lack of responses. 

Overall, I think we have to be a little bit careful though that we don't stray too far beyond sanitation topics because the whole topic of white privilege, white supremacy, racism, Black lives Matter etc. is huge and I am not sure if it's the right place to discuss it all here on the forum? I would prefer if we try to look at racism issues specifically in the WASH sector and specifically in SuSanA. Let's try to make it specific to us and our work so that it really helps us. (or if people want, we could start up a new sub-category where "broader" topics are allowed; we actually had the same issue when it came to Covid responses where some people wanted to keep this forum focused on sanitation topics only, and others (including me) said "let's discuss the wider Covid lock-down ramifications", see this thread here ) . 

Euphresia, you have linked to an article about white supremacy. When I think of white supremacy I think of Donald Trump and all that stuff in the US... The article that you linked to lists a lot of things that we probably all agree are wrong but I am surprised they are summarised under "white supremacy". Some of it looks more like "male dominated culture" or "cultural differences" or "bad management styles" etc. but I am really not sure if they are specifically linked to "white people":
https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html#

In your speech at the 30th SuSanA meeting you mentioned "white supremacy in the sector" and said "the problem is not the white people, it's the white supremacy" (even though you try to make it sound nice, it is still confusing for a white person to hear; it's a bit like saying "the problem is not black people, it's black people's attitudes"). All the people I have ever worked with during my time in the WASH sector have been anything but racist and I could not name a single person (or even organization) where I have felt that it was "white supremacy" at play. Power issues, incompetence, wrong decisions, sexism etc. yes - but white supremacy?  Maybe it's a question of definition. I am going by the definition of white supremacy as per Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_supremacy

White supremacy or white supremacism is the  racist  belief that  white people  are superior to those of other  races  and thus should dominate them. White supremacy has roots in the now-discredited doctrine of  scientific racism  and often relies on  pseudoscientific  arguments, and was a key justification for  Colonialism . It underlies a spectrum of contemporary movements including  neo-Confederates  and  neo-Nazism .

In your speech you also said we need to talk about failures. I think here you are speaking to the converted. Everyone here at SuSanA would agree that this needs doing. We have a dedicated sub-category on the forum for this and we all know that it should be done more (and that it's not easy; people are also worried about their jobs or their next funding):  forum.susana.org/learning-from-failures


In your speech you also said "we need to change our mindsets. We should change the norm so that African WASH knowledge platforms are no longer viewed as inferior". This really confuses me: Who exactly sees WASH knowledge platforms as inferior? I don't think anyone does? Which WASH knowledge platforms do you have in mind? I can think of ASK-net, sister-net, Cap-net or all the work coming out from WRC in South Africa. 
Actually, I have filtered the SuSanA partner database for sub-Saharan Africa plus local NGO, network, government-owned or university and it shows these 50 SuSanA partners:  https://www.susana.org/en/community/partners/list?vbl_14%5B92%5D=92&vbl_14%5B88%5D=88&vbl_14%5B94%5D=94&vbl_14%5B91%5D=91&vbl_2%5B13%5D=13&test=

It would never have occurred to me to think of any of them as inferior, far from it.

Another thing you said in your speech is that organisations should have a "communication + learning + adaptation department" and this should be separate from the marketing department.  I agree with that, sounds good. I think organisations in general should budget more for knowledge management, dissemination and outreach (and support the SuSanA discussion forum and Wikipedia along the way).

To re-iterate, this is a great conversation to have. Let's try to make it as specific as possible for the sanitation sector and to exactly what we (= SuSanA members and the organisations that we work for) should do differently. 

Here is again the link to Euphresia's speech at the SuSanA meeting in case anyone hasn't seen it yet:
Video of Euphresia's speech at the 30th SuSanA meeting (at 1:02:12)

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
Founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Euphresia wrote: Kris wrote:

To summarize: the entire current setup isn't suitable for de-colonization, and current efforts are at most going to divert some
more funding from the global north into just as colonizing but maybe
superficially (as in skin color only) more diverse setups, likely
involving a lot of people that are even less self-motivated to solve the
issues in question. Hence, in my personal opinion it is probably better to accept current global north institutions (as bad and non-diverse as they are) but push for more open / patent free access to knowledge.

Already we have dwindling funding in the WASH sector, would you rather fix the system challenges or continue having no value for money invested by donors  in developing countries?


Well, that was kind of my point 😅 I believe pushing global north institutions to become more diverse will result in them investing in more "no value for money" projects. This is not because global south institutions that might potentially benefit are inherently inferior, but rather because most global north institutions are really bad at finding the right places to invest (in general).
With their own internal structures there is at least some more direct feedback on what works or not.

On the broader topic, yeah like Elisabeth suggests, lets try to find some more practical topics on what can be done. Painting things in broad strokes of "white supremacy everywhere" will just make people needlessly defensive 😉
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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Hi Kris.

I agree with your 1st paragrapgh on the second one I have decided to read it as, we have various failures in the WASH sector and decolonising the sector can go a long way in addressing most of these challenges from a systemic lens towards ensuring that we realise VFM towards attaining SDG 6 effectively :-)
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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Thanks Carol.

I have also seen your input on twitter today and it is nothing but the truth - Decolonise WASH! I also shared the link to the paper here

Euphresia
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  • depinder
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  • Depinder Kapur is a senior development professional with experience in WASH, Livelihoods and NRM.
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Thanks JK for continuing the discussion.

You do accept that WASH knowledge priorities from south are not recognised, but conclude that this has nothing to do with dominance of northern WASH experts or institutions. 

This discussion will benefit from identifying what are these WASH priorities, engaging in discussion, instead of debating the north-south issue. Not that for me this is not important, but because as Euphresia has also said - the acceptance of the dominance is not there. 

Just to conclude, let me also repeat that I also see certain WASH Knowledge priorities are not being raised even by Southern WASH experts for political reasons that these will not be tolerated by their own national government. The example of caste and class issues in WASH, the manipulation of data and facts in national reporting of WASH progress, the regional, racial and ethnic exclusions, etc. It is here that the collaboration and support from Northern experts can be great. But is sadly, absent. 

In my post on this topic I had highlighted a few neglected southern WASH Knowledge priorities that dont find mention at the international level and I am presenting the same here again so that we an start discussing these : 
  • Sanitation-Stunting linkage based on empirical regression and co-relation econometrics as done by Dean Spears for India
  • Commercial marketing messaging approaches to hygiene promotion - as done by Val Cutris
  • Lack of understanding of deeper self perception barriers and aspirations, that undermine hygiene behaviour change. Not understood and worked on by northern experts.
  • Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene Management as a hygiene practice, divorced from engagement with feminist and womens movements in countries on how they have dealt with this. 
I am also attaching a Framework for Resilient Urban Sanitation Response that we developed in India, based on Covid 19 and Sanitation response experience in India. I am sharing this as an example WASH knowledge generation from south. Will it get recognised by north experts?

Covid 19 and the Black Lives Matter has forced this topic of de colonisation of WASH Knowledge on this and other forums. For the first time north experts were home bound but it has not stopped them from generating new frameworks setting at home!!!
Depinder Kapur is a senior Development and WASH expert and is currently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi that is focussed on non sewered sanitation systems( scbp.niua.org). He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator).

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  • Chaiwe
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

I have been following this discussion from the onset and felt it is great to add my thoughts. First of, I would rather phrase the title of this discussion 'Initiating De-colonisation of the WASH sector'. It is rather unfortunate to turn a blind eye to some of the points raised by Euphresia on the topic no matter how intense and accusing they may sound ( though I personally feel that the discussions about race are ill-fitting in this discussion and can be addressed elsewhere). The truth really is, to sum up from all points raised within this thread that:

_There is a gross power imbalance between countries in the north vs countries in the south. In my opinion, this is owed to who brings the money. Unfortunately, funders will always in a way hold on to some form of higher power and control, if not the majority of it in comparison to their recipients. Until the global south achieves some form of funding self-sufficiency this imbalance is here to stay. This is also why experts from the global north are sent to 'manage' how these finances are spent and how projects are implemented. Resulting in further imbalances within the WASH sectors' organisational workforce. Global north 'experts' remain in managerial and decision-making positions and in most cases have the final say, even in the dissemination of sector knowledge. Bearing in mind that the global south is in no way lacking with respect to WASH sector expertise and in most cases has way more knowledgable experts within the local context. Kris your comment below is simply not factual. 

Kris' Comment:..Adding to that, various reasons (language and formal qualifications among them) result in a selection of mostly people from the rich urban upper-class of the global south being the ones getting the offered jobs and most of the interaction (despite having little intrinsic self-interest/motivation in most of the typical "development" topics), thus this can be hardly called de-colonisation.

_I think it is the responsibility of the global south to call out these 'colonial' undertones within the sector. So kudos to Euphraise for beginning this discussion. However, it would be wonderful to see this happen at the various levels (national, local, project) within the global south.  It is also the responsibility of northern countries to accept that it is what it is. In my own experience working with various public, private, and government organisations within the global south. Discussions, opinions, and perceptions concerning this 'global south sector colonisation' are commonplace, but oftentimes these are discussed informally behind closed doors where the funders are not within eavesdropping length, and while in the presence of the funder a more politically correct tone is employed. After all who wants to bite the hand that feeds you right? (a term I would rather not use).  I think this is still the biggest problem behind the lack of sustainability and ownership of interventions. 

_Not to say that it is all grim. I think there is a realisation that the scale is tilted to one side and efforts are being made to try and create a balance. Take for example how more and more the once very heavy 'donor-driven' approaches in the sector have eased out and a more 'cooperating partner approach' is being employed focused on more global south driven decision making and intervention within the sector. 

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Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Chaiwe wrote: Kris your comment below is simply not factual. 

Kris' Comment:..Adding to that, various reasons (language and formal qualifications among them) result in a selection of mostly people from the rich urban upper-class of the global south being the ones getting the offered jobs and most of the interaction (despite having little intrinsic self-interest/motivation in most of the typical "development" topics), thus this can be hardly called de-colonisation.

_I think it is the responsibility of the global south to call out these 'colonial' undertones within the sector.


Yes, I could have probably been more nuanced on that comment. But I have seen this play out in two different ways very often:
- In South Asia (as depinder is also implying) you have a lot of well educated urban upper caste people that are simply not very interested in looking at the root causes of poverty and consider sanitation issues as something "in-pure". But I guess due to many development sector jobs being relatively well paid and in a clean office environment, these people end up with a lot of such jobs. This can be a quite frustrating environment to work in and "de-colonising" into such structures is definitely not an improvement.
- In those places that I worked in in sub-saharan Africa on the other hand, there are a lot of northern-educated and minded people in the development sector. With many of those, I really fail to see how this would be de-colonizing as really the only difference is in skin color... yet some of them (a common theme especially in East Africa it seems) really like to emphasize de-colonisation. Maybe I am over-interpreting this, but it always seems a bit too self-interested as of course any "de-colonized" jobs would have to actively discriminate against foreigners.

Of course this is a broad generalization and I met a lot of exceptions to the above. But it irks me a bit when people think superficial de-colonization would solve any of the many issues in this sector. And certainly as long as there is such an imbalance in funding it is a bit of a moot point, I fully agree.
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

depinder wrote: Thanks JK for continuing the discussion.
You do accept that WASH knowledge priorities from south are not recognised, but conclude that this has nothing to do with dominance of northern WASH experts or institutions. 


Well, in a sense the WASH knowledge sector is an incredibly tiny bubble with very little real world influence. True, it is northern dominated but I have come to the realization that this is ultimately mostly irrelevant. What we really need to do is break out of the bubble and as a result I think the issue of northern dominance would solve itself (as WASH is really an inherently global topic).
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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Dear Kris.

On your comment stating "...But it irks me a bit when people think superficial de-colonization would solve any of the many issues in this sector. "  I would like to confirm to you that we have northern donors who have de-colonised their operations in southern countries and their activities  are sustainable, observing equality and non-discrmination of any sort. Most of such donors are members of SuSanA and championing this agenda especially during this covid-19 period where localisation is pertinent towards flattening the curve.

Euphresia
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