Article "Initiating De-colonisation of WASH sector Knowledge"

2889 views

  • depinder
  • depinder's Avatar
  • Depinder Kapur is a senior development professional with experience in WASH, Livelihoods and NRM.
  • Posts: 78
  • Likes received: 43

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).

You need to login to reply
  • Euphresia
  • Posts: 9
  • Likes received: 7

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
The following user(s) like this post: Doreen
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 1000
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 329

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 🤷‍♂️
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 1000
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 329

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...
You need to login to reply
  • Euphresia
  • Posts: 9
  • Likes received: 7

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
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 1000
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 329

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
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 1000
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 329

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. 
You need to login to reply
  • Elisabeth
  • Elisabeth's Avatar
  • 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)
  • Posts: 3127
  • Karma: 54
  • Likes received: 852

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

Hi Euphresia and all,

This is an important discussion to be had and I can imagine that many people might be itching in their finger tips to type but then hold back for fear of saying the wrong thing. It would be great to also hear from more people in the Global South about this. So far it's only been you, Depinder and Chaiwe. So please don't hold back everyone but do engage.

There is one thing in your post that is troubling me:

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.

You've said this before but it doesn't convince me as a "peace building or bridge building step" (at all).... 

I spoke about that already in my post from 2 September in this same thread (scroll up or down):

+++++++

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 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 neo-Nazism  and  Christian Identity .

++++++++

What is your reaction to my point? Perhaps we define "white supremacy" differently? You seem to use the term freely whereas I see it has having a very specific distinct meaning. 

Just like this article which you linked to: 
"THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE" 

In my opinion what is described there is not white supremacy but more like "male dominated culture" or "cultural differences" or "bad management styles" etc.

So perhaps Step 1 would be to understand if your usage of the term "white supremacy" is different to my understanding of the term. I think this is important.
In your argument white supremacy and issue of colonise/de-colonise go hand in hand, if I understood it right.

The term “decolonisation” pops up more often now (or maybe I just notice it more now). For example “decolonise the internet” ( https://www.goethe.de/ins/ng/en/m/kul/sup/dti.html ) and about aid ( https://blogs.bsg.ox.ac.uk/2020/09/02/we-need-a-new-way-to-think-about-aid/ )
I quote from the second article:

The call is growing to “decolonize aid” and have international aid given directly to national governments or local organisations in a way that ends the white rule of UN agencies and international NGOs. More radical campaigners want aid redefined as “reparations” for centuries of slavery and colonialism.


When I look for a definition what decolonization of knowledge means I go to Wikipedia and find this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decolonization_of_knowledge

Decolonization of knowledge (also epistemic or epistemological decolonization) is primarily an intellectual project [1]  that challenges the hegemonic Western knowledge system with its claim of universality. [2]  The project seeks to legitimize other knowledge systems and establish justice for hitherto disregarded epistemologies. [2]  These debates originated in the west with the counter culture, prominent in universities in the 1970s, which supported similar debates in  Africa Latin America , and elsewhere. [3]  Because of this project modern academic scholarship tends to give more weight to indigenous belief systems, as well as identities around race, gender, and sexuality. Critics would argue however that it has failed in many ways to challenge the dominant aspects of neoliberal ideology and the dominance of free market capitalism.

Is this what we are talking about? Maybe, maybe not. I'm happy to work on updating the Wikipedia article if someone wants to collaborate with me on that one.

I think getting our terminologies lined up and clarified would be important.

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
You need to login to reply
Share this thread:
Recently active users. Who else has been active?
Time to create page: 0.284 seconds