Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

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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"

Hi JK : Well if WASH Knowledge is an irrelevant tiny topic, and that the issue of dominance will be solved on its own, then there is really nothing to discuss.
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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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Hi Depinder.

Thanks for your valuable input; reading some of the comments make me wish to take people for a walk by their hands :-) in the day of a ‘Southern’ WASH Expert in some of these donor funded projects. Equality and Discrimination are not just opinions that humans can choose whether or not to protect. The U.N. declaration of human rights affirms that we are all born free and equal. Therefore, these are conversations that require contributors to be open minded, to replace their perceptions or experiences in the sector that white supremacy does not exist with some realism, objectivity and empathy which will in turn separate the view of the subject from emotional reactions. From my work experience addressing challenges of access to human rights like water and sanitation requires some empathy. So many experiences of white supremacy in the WASH sector have been shared in various platforms and no level of denying this can stop this agenda since decolonization of WASH sector has time and again been demonstrated (from a systemic lens) as a low hanging fruit  towards addressing most of the WASH challenges in the South towards its sustainability. The change towards decolonizing the WASH sector is here and unstoppable and the change will change the WASH sector; I believe it!

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

depinder wrote: Hi JK : Well if WASH Knowledge is an irrelevant tiny topic, and that the issue of dominance will be solved on its own, then there is really nothing to discuss.


Sorry, this is not at all what I meant. I was referring to the "Wash knowledge sector" as in the currently engaged institutions and individuals. These are a few NGO thinktanks, some sector focussed NGO employees and some university departments more or less. In addition there are overarching networks like Susana. I am not trying to be too negative about it, but it all feels very much self referencing and unless we manage to break out of this bubble it is probably largely irrelevant.

In retrospect I think the eyeopening moment for me was the Gates Foundation's reinvent the toilet programme. It suddently brought in a lot of new people due to the Foundation's reach and they seemed very literally try to "reinvent the wheel" mostly oblivious to all the knowledge accumulated and discussed for years if not decades in the "Wash knowledge sector". Hence, it was plainful to see just how little relevance the sector has/had.

But we are getting a bit off-topic here 🤷‍♂️
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Euphresia wrote: 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.


This is no doubt great, but I am wondering if beyond it being a nice political gesture anything has really changed?

Take Oxfam as an example: as far as I know they have moved their entire headquarters to Nairobi and are probably at the very front of attempts to "decolonize" a formerly global north organisation.

I have to admit I do not know how this is percieved from the inside of the organisation (maybe it really improved the power dynamics between northern and southern employees?), but looking from the outside I do not see any real substancial change in how the organisation operates. Yet moving operations must have come at a substancial cost both in terms of money and temporary impact on ongoing projects...
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  • Euphresia
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Hi Chaiwe.

Fantastic observations and recommendations you made.

From your statement:

( though I personally feel that the discussions about race are ill-fitting in this discussion and can be addressed elsewhere)

To avoid mis-quoting, I also want to categorically clarify/state that in all my contributions on the topic I always emphasise on the fact that the challenge is white supremacy and not white people.

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

I was continually navigating institutional racism or that a learning and development team responsible for over 10,000 staff with so little
diversity could only be defined as colonial.

Interesting related article:
www.thenewhumanitarian.org/opinion/first...institutional-racism
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

Reflecting a bit on the reader's comments on the above article and also my own comments here, I think I need to clarify my stance a bit. This is especially because me being obviously very much male, white and from the global north.

This is to avoid being misunderstood as talking about "reverse racism" or otherwise apologizing the often very bad internal power-dynamics of international aid organisations.

My comments here and general thoughts on the matter are that trying to reform these structures from within to be less colonial is in my personal experience counter productive in the larger picture (although it might somewhat improve working conditions for employees from the global south).

As others have also alluded to, any such efforts can not solve larger power imbalances of our global society, but are likely to make these large global institutions even less efficient and likely dysfunctional.

What we really need are different structures, not "de-colonized" existing structures that continue to do a poor job at reaching their stated mission. 
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