Water as a connecting element

Guides from Rwanda and Germany strengthen their partnership

wasseRecht - The right to water

Partner country: Rwanda

Partner organisations: Association des Guides du Rwanda and St George girl guide association

Duration: May 2017 – December 2018

SDG: 6. Clean Water and Sanitation

Improve education quality: that was the aim that Suni and Light for the Children from Namibia had in mind as they launched their exchange project with funding from BMZ. The 14 participants visited each other, learned about the education systems in the respective other country and split into smaller groups to design new concepts to help achieve their aim. Their efforts paid off in more ways than one: they received an engagement award for their work.

SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Working together on an environmental issue

The Rwandan scouting association Association des Guides du Rwanda and their German counterpart, the St George girl guide association, have been partners since the early 1980s. For a long time, the focus was on support provided from the German side to the Rwandan partner, while in return the German guides learned about Rwanda. In recent years, however, the partners felt the time had come to work together as partners on one project theme and to seek other sources of funding beyond donations.

The chosen idea was one that was particularly close to the girl guides’ hearts: responsible management of the environment. Water was chosen as the focal point of their activities, since water – the source of life – is an element that connects all human beings. “Responsible water management and access to clean water are both global issues. That said, our countries face different kinds of problems and so we can learn a lot from each other. That is why we were inspired to focus on this subject,” explains Laura Kischkat from the St George guides.

Camp visits on the “right to water”

In 2017 the Rwandan girl guides visited the national camp of the St George girl guides in Germany, where they attended workshops on forests, water and deserts. One year later, the German guides were welcomed at camp by their Rwandan peers. Both camps drew several hundreds of attendees, for whom our project group provided input on the right to water. We organised joint workshops on issues such as virtual water consumption in connection with products like jeans, smartphones, coffee, tea, beef and sugar. We explored alternatives to buying new products, practiced recycling methods, learned about composting toilets and engaged in role play to switch perspectives – becoming rice farmers, water corporation owners or urban children from Kigali or Munich.

Three participants hold up a filter they built using twigs and a plastic bottle. One of them is wearing the scarf typically worn by scouts and guides.
Three participants process water using a filter they have built themselves.

Switching perspectives delivers new insights

Assuming different roles helped everyone to question clichéd ideas about the respective other partner country and, in the case of the German guides, to examine their perceived “progressiveness”. While Germans are concerned about possible pharmacological residues in their drinking water, Rwanda still lacks a nationwide set of rules on water processing. By contrast, Rwanda already banned plastic bags years ago, which are highly problematic for Germany’s lakes and rivers and their residents.

A strong partnership is beneficial to all sides

The water project led to both of our associations launching other water-related initiatives at various levels. The Rwandan guides began training multipliers inside their association and established community projects on rainwater use. Within the St George association, various groups decided to continue working on the elements and on nature and produced materials for use by local chapters.

The Rwandan guides began training multipliers inside their association and established community projects on rainwater use.

”The project has enabled us to get young women in both associations enthusiastic about water, and it’s strengthened our partnership – a major benefit for both sides,” says Pascaline Umulisa from the Rwandan association.

“We want to establish a level playing field as we continue to work on our partnership. This joint project work is a great way to do that.” The next project was launched this year  and will focus on SDG 5 (Gender Equality).