Rutgers Hosts Annual Water, Women and the World Panel


by Ariana Cerminaro

As difficult as it may be for us to grasp, there are some countries that don’t have access to clean water. This lack of clean water impacts every aspect of life, particularly for women, who are the ones expected to fetch the water from wherever they can get it and use it for cooking and cleaning. This is a process that can take hours, and the women can’t spill a drop of it.

Take Back the Tap at Rutgers hosted its annual Water, Women and the World Panel on March 31 from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm in the Rutgers Student Center on College Avenue, and was open to the public.

Kaitlin D’Agostino, a Rutgers senior who is currently on the National Advisory Board and the Campaign Coordinator for Food and Water Watch, hosted the event. Food and Water Watch is the parent program for Take Back the Tap.

“We have this panel to let people know that water is not just a sustainability issue, but it is also a human rights issue,” D’Agostino said as she began the event.

The event was hosted for World Water Day, which was on March 22.

“For booking purposes we did it today,” said D’Agostino.

Four hosts spoke at the event: Angela Oberg, Humza Nomani, Radhika Patel, and Fahim Ferdous Promi.

Promi, a native of Bangladesh, is focused on improving poor water conditions in his city. The rural area of Bangaldesh have no sanitation services at all, while the urban area is overcrowded and monsoon season regularly sweeps the trash into the river. Rampant diarrhea and poor maternal health are also concerns, all linking back to the lack of sanitation services. The country is also suffering from climate change, and is currently sinking.

“We have a population that extends to 161 million people. Out of 161 million people, 32 million lack access to clean water,” Promi said. “Seventy-six million people lack access to any form of sanitation at all.”

Nomani represented the Ibn-Al-Rahman Foundation, which provides wells to areas in Pakistan and Punjab. His main topic of discussion was on the water shortages in Pakistan. During his presentation, he showed a video detailing how the organization’s actions have helped people in villages get clean water.

“In about two years we’ve installed eight water filtration plants in some of the poorest villages of Pakistan,” Nomani said.

Patel works as a coordinator for the Global Water Brigade and also worked on projects for better water infrastructures in Honduras. Water Brigades provides communities with access to clean water by designing and implementing systems that help treat water in order to prevent diseases. The community is taught how to monitor and care for the systems in order to keep them running, and then a Water Council and Basic Sanitation Committee are established in order to keep the system sustainable.

“With our program we built full-scale ground B-flow water systems and we’ve recently started to build wells as well,” Patel said.

The page for Water Brigades can be found here.

Oberg discussed her research from studying sanitation systems in northern India. She discussed how 50 percent of sanitation projects fail within five years of construction, which inspired her to try and figure out why these projects fail and how a better job could be done. To her, the problem was that projects focused too much on building something to fix the problem, and didn’t focus enough on how to actually help the people. She also believed that water and sanitation was too often linked together, with too much focus on water and not enough focus on sanitation.

“We’re not talking about building something or constructing something, we’re talking about delivering a service,” Oberg said.

A raffle was held after the event in order to give away Bobbles, reusable water bottles that filters water.

“There will be another panel next year,” D’Agostino said. “It should be around this time.”