Belen Andrade (Ecuador)
National Secretariat for Water Management
Master of Integrated Water Management
In the next paragraphs, I will share with you my experiences working in the water sector in my home country. I will do my best to try to find the best translation for the names of the diverse institutions, so that you will be able to understand. However, in some cases I won’t be able to provide too many details since I am currently working on an area that needs to be treated with prudence.
After finishing the Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM), I came back to my home country, Ecuador. Because of my country’s economic situation, it became challenging to find a job. I sent my CV to every possible organisation related to water while I was working as an English teacher for kids.
I can say that the MIWM really prepares us for life.
At the beginning of December 2009, the National Secretariat for Disaster Risk Management hired me. Although my job was not directly related to water issues, I was hired to contribute with some integrated approaches to prevent disasters. Hence, I accepted this job.
At the end of January 2010, the National Secretariat for Water Management called me for a job interview. After several interviews, they proposed me to work for them. It was a difficult decision since I had recently started at the other Secretariat. Although after the four interviews I did not have a clear picture of my role and responsibilities, I accepted this offer because this was my opportunity to get some experience in the water sector and understand how the public sector works.
I have been working at the National Secretariat for Water Management since March 2010. Although I would have preferred to have a clear picture of what exactly I was going to do, these unclear role and responsibilities have given me the opportunity to participate in two different projects related to water: (i) transboundary river issues and (ii) disaster risk management (floods and droughts).
I thank God and the IWC for giving me the opportunity to participate in these projects and contribute with some of the skills I developed in the MIWM. I remember our first day of class of the MIWM, Kwame told us “We won’t teach you the solutions to the various water problems, but we will teach you to pose the correct questions”.
Indeed, the MIWM has prepared me to be able to understand the different water issues in different contexts (e.g. transboundary river basins, disaster risk management, water access and sanitation, etc). It has also prepared me to encourage people and myself to reflect on the importance of “integration, cooperation and coordination”. It is amazing how many people use the term “IWRM” without even understanding its concept or its principles.
Another skill that the MIWM has helped me to develop is the ability to research. In my country, we have not been able to develop this skill. We tend to “rediscover the wheel” without learning from either previous experiences or experiences in other countries. Hence, we tend to make the same mistakes, as Peter Oliver once told us.
Last month, we had a meeting to discuss the guidelines of an IWRM Plan. We were not sure where to start since these guidelines needed to be general in order to be used in different Ecuadorian contexts.
A friend and I did some research and prepared a proposal. During the meeting, someone who had not contributed at all with the guidelines started to criticise us: “You are only looking on the books. What if those things do not adapt to our country?” And I replied, “It is true what you are saying. Not everything that is done around that world can be adapted to our country. However, these experiences in other places have given us some idea of what aspects could be considered for an IWRM Plan. After reading from various experiences, we have come up with this proposal that needs to be reviewed and corrected by all of us. That is why we are here.
”The adventure of putting in practice what we have learned at the MIWM has been challenging. However, what I have liked the most is how the MIWM changed my focus regarding water issues and life. I constantly experience this invitation and reminder to focus on the technical aspects of water, but overall on how to involve the local people who are usually left aside when implementing IWRM plans. I strongly believe that water is about people and their dignity as human beings.
"I just want to finish with an invitation to all the alumni: Let’s keep looking through the reflective lens and evaluate how we are contributing to better people’s dignity."