Water is Power (Agua es Poder) targets the problem of unequal access to water in informal urban settlements in the city of Buenos Aires. It is an environmental awareness and promotion program that educates about good water use practices while encouraging the participation of neighbors in their community. At SUMANDO we are community mediators, we accompany the implementation of water and sanitation infrastructure works in Villa 21-24 to guide neighbors in the correct connection and use, thus achieving an effective appropriation of the facilities.
The project enables awareness workshops with participatory dynamics where we work on contents such as the importance of oral and hand hygiene, disease transmission through water, identification of rain and sewage networks, waste disposal and its local environmental impact, among others. Hosting visibility actions with games and open radio sessions are key to the program. In a final stage, after fostering strong links with the neighbors and community spaces in the neighborhood, we conducted a survey to identify the main problems around water. The objective of this stage is to make the voices of the neighborhood visible and to obtain data that will allow us to influence the public agenda.
The experience was implemented in two areas of Villa 21-24. In 2018, we accompanied the public infrastructural work in the area of Pasaje Daniel de la Sierra. We reached 351 people and managed to get 100% of the homes in the Pasaje to abandon their informal connections and connect to the new network. In 2020 we carried out the second experience in the Tierra Amarilla area. In this opportunity we generated a network of 1750 neighbors with whom we carried out an year-long information campaign, articulating with 11 community spaces and delivering hygiene kits that reached 350 families (the later resulting essential under the COVID-19 context).
Water is Power arose from the articulation between various key actors: the Housing Institute of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires (IVC), FEMSA Foundation, the Coca-Cola FEMSA bottling company located next to Villa 21-24, and SUMANDO Argentina. From our location, we recognize the knowledge and value of the community. Indeed, part of our community work strategy includes the hiring of young promoters who live in the neighborhood, the installation of a territorial “sub-headquarter”, and the articulation with neighbors, grassroots community organizations, and governmental agencies. We also carry out a detailed work in the adaptation of contents to a language matching local realities. We understand that empathy is a necessary action to approach every neighborhood and slum, in order to provide tools that help every citizen understand complex urban problems.
This program is aligned with the following Sustainable Development Goals (ODS):