Youth, Students and Water

“A Salvadoran labor organizer told a group of American youth activists that their budding movement was like a body with a huge heart but no bones to move it forward. Through their infrastructure, experience and resources, adult-led organizations can help build these bones. Young people, in return, can give some of their moral passion and their creative intelligence. [The goal is] to forge a cross-generational strategic collaboration that expands the scope, reach and sustainability of a social movement for global fairness.”

Youth Activism and Global Engagement: Part I; OneWorld US Special Report

Youth leadership has played a central role in nearly every social movement this century has seen. WILPF recognizes and celebrates this fact, and thus an important goal of the Save the Water Campaign will be to engage college students, high school students, and non-student youth in the struggle to take back our water.

WILPF sees collaboration with student networks such as the Student Environmental Action Coalition, The Sierra Student Coalition, Campus Greens, Earth First!, United Students Against Sweatshops Killer Coke Campaign, and community based youth-led environmental justice organizations as strategic partners in the campaign. Young people have already begun to chip away at the bottled beverage industry, through the Killer Coke Campaign and the Ice-Mountain (Nestle) Boycott. WILPF seeks to amplify that work by building the capacity of youth organizations to tackle the issue of water. We envision youth participation in a myriad of ways, a few of which are listed below.

  • The clearest example of youth and student participation is a coordinated effort to cancel bottled water and soda contracts on college campuses and in high schools nationwide. This corporate campaigning strategy has a legacy of success, as the Student Farmworker Alliance recently won fair wages for tomato pickers through the “Boot the Bell Campaign” by canceling Taco Bell contracts. The Killer Coke campaign employs a similar strategy and has already put a significant dent into Coca Cola’s market share. The seat of power for students is their campus, and by targeting their administration’s purchasing policy, the corporate target becomes within reach for young people.
  • Youth and students are well positioned to conduct research on water issues in their community. The necessary research on groundwater contamination and privatization is often difficult to gather for volunteer run community groups with few resources. Youth and students can act as a valuable asset to groups who would otherwise struggle to answer pertinent questions about the quality and ownership of water.
  • Young people are perhaps the biggest victims of a slowly eroding democracy, where corporate power increasingly takes priority over civic participation. The WILPF Save the Water Campaign will work to empower young people to sit on their county water boards, participate in the community governance of their water, and pressure their community institutions to hold themselves accountable to the citizens and not the corporations.
  • Young people have been the activists and agitators in water struggles all over the world. WILPF’s status as an international NGO provides young people with forums and contacts for global communication around strategies and tactics for fighting for democratic control of water.

The Save the Water Campaign has big plans for youth and student involvement, so stay tuned! In order to successfully and holistically engage young people in the Save the Water Campaign, WILPF will develop materials specific to youth and students, including action guides, training manuals, and a website devoted specifically to youth. The Save the Water Campaign would also bring together youth and student activist leaders together for one or multiple strategy sessions, in addition to assisting youth organizations with travel scholarships to important water symposiums and conferences.

Youth and water links:

United Students Against Sweatshops

The Student Environmental Action Coalition

The Student Farmworker Alliance

Killer Coke Campaign

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