Maximizing Our Water Resources By Creating Jobs

… How the ILO Helping Liberia

Water as we are aware is an indispensable element of life, without which the universe would be a different place, if not impossible to live. However, despite its preciousness to the existence of mankind, water remains one of the most wasted resources not only in Liberia, but bulk of the world. As a way of understanding and reflecting on the importance of water, the United Nations, more than two decades ago (on May 22, 1993) set aside a special day to be observed as World Water Day.

Globally, as this year World Water Day is celebrated, attention will be drawn to issue of water, its provision and how it could be used to generate more and better employments. With the theme of this year Water Day: “Water and Jobs,” the event, primarily, is to demonstrate the connections between access to water, decent jobs creation and the workers.

The Director General of International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr. Guy Ryder, will be leading the global awareness as the Chairman of UN-Water for the year 2016 celebration; thus the ILO boss is playing a very crucial role in this year World Water Day. The focus, this year relates appropriately to jobs and employment generation through provision of good water.

As the chairman of UN-Water for the year, Guy Ryder has put it in the right perspective. He said the 2016 World Water Day is a great opportunity for UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, enterprises, unions and citizens to come together to make a call for better water and better jobs.

Stressing the importance, Guy Rider, said the livelihoods of many workers such as fishermen depend on the quality of the freshwater, while farmer's job depends on his or her ability to manage the available freshwater. “The fact is, water is work – it requires workers for its safe and clean delivery and at the same time it can create work and improve conditions of work,” he said.

He said ‘’there is no life without water; and the fact that access to water underpins all our efforts to achieve sustainable development is undoubted”.

“What is not so often said is that the availability and sustainable management of water has a clear and direct link with the creation of quality jobs. World Water Day provides a unique opportunity to highlight this relationship, under the 2016 theme ‘Water and jobs.”

The ILO boss said “almost half of the world's workers - 1.5 billion - work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery”. He pointed out that millions of these workers are not recognized, or protected by basic labour rights.

  He said: “Water can contribute to a greener economy and sustainable development. But for this to happen, we need more workers qualified to realize the potential of new, green technologies. And we need those workers to have decent work that provides dignity, equality, safety and a fair income.”

The quantity and the quality of water has a direct impact on workers lives and health; Ryder said every year, over 340,000 workers die because of inadequate water supply and sanitation.

“The livelihoods of many workers such as fishermen depend on the quality of the freshwater. A farmer's job depends on his or her ability to manage the available freshwater.

If the 2030 Agenda is to be a success and we are to build together a sustainable future, we must ensure that work in water is decent and that the water we all rely on is safe.” He said.

He believes that World Water Day, therefore provides, “a great opportunity for UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, enterprises, unions and citizens to come together to make a call for better water and better jobs.”

This day which is been held once a year provide us the platform to explore progress and strides that have been made in addressing issues concerning water and jobs in the country. Water and Jobs situations in the country are very much discouraging despite efforts by local and international partners in addressing the situation. The statistics are scaring. Water Aid statistics shows that in Liberia, a country of around 4.5 million people, 1 million people have no safe water and 4 million have no sanitation. The resulting diseases kill 800 children every year from preventable diarrheal diseases. Without these basic human services, many Liberians do not have the good health or time for education or to be able to work to support their families.

Challenges still remain huge in these sectors, especially within urban communities, least to mention rural communities. Having access to water and jobs are becoming harder on a daily basis, with many people expressing frustration, mainly the young population, that constitute over 68 percent of the nation's population of 4.5 million people.

The Liberia Labor Congress, an agrency that represent the country labor force has also expressed disappointment with several issues in the sector. The LLC Secretary General David Sackor said that little has been achieved in terms of water and jobs in the country. The advocacy body for workers welfare in the country the LWSC has failed to expand its operation in order to provide jobs for the people.

According to him, the LWSC should be the primary provider when it comes to water, but the agency was still lacking behind with regards to capacity. The LLC have also expressed the need for strong social protection scheme for those in the water sector of the country, both the formal and informal sectors.

Water, Sackor noted is life and if it is, then the government needs to have the sector improve by making it viable so that jobs can be created. Most of the jobs in the sector Sackor believes are been provided by private companies; instead of government been the institution to do so.

Liberia, Sackor said will be joining countries around the world to celebrate the International Water Day, but added that those working in the sector still earned poverty wage; and they are poorly paid coupled with the lack of social protection.

“It is important that Water and Jobs be given priority because the challenges in the sector are huge” Sackor stressed. The Labor workers Chief Scribe pointed out that people who are employed both full-time and self employed didn’t social protection and better wages.

He added “people especially those who are selling pure or plastic bag mineral on the street didn’t social protection. For instance when they are involved into accident, what will be the end result, reason been that no protection scheme is in place to cater to them.

Water and Jobs are human rights issues and because Liberia having signed that treaty of the UN Convention on the rights of people, they should ensure that basic social services are been provided.

We are celebrating this day with lot of challenges yet to be evenly address, thus ranging from social protection issues to low wages according to research conducted from stakeholders within the sector in the country.

Most of the pit-wells and hand pums are unhygienic, due to the fact that some communities where these wells and pumps are located have burial grounds at the upper end of the communities.

Water when taken care properly creates jobs and those jobs provide income for the people. According to the ILO statistics, about 14.9 percent of the country population is considered to be unemployed. This statistics from the UN department take into account all sector, thus relating to formal and informal sectors where a woman making business at small table is considered to be employed since it is the job that they do to earn a living, while also a man who burns and sells charcoal is considered to be employed as well.

The ILO and part of its duty and responsibility to ensure member states comply; have worked with the Liberian Legislature and Labor agency including the Liberian Labor Congress in terms of enhancing the passage into law of the new labor law in the form of a bill that is called "Decent Work Bill" for Liberia. The ILO having received complaints from across all sector regarding labor right issues provided technical support to the Liberian legislature and other partners to include the Liberia Labor Congress (LLC), Ministry of Labor Liberia, (MOL), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Liberia Chambers of Commerce (LCC).

The ILO has made strides in providing employment for Liberia’s youthful population. As part of said initiative, the organization will in couple of week time launch a project title “Upgrading Water and Sanitation Systems Incorporating Skills-Based Training and Employment for Youth in Ebola Affected Slum Communities”.

This youth employment project according to the organization is intended to promote economic stabilization and is being supported by the UN Ebola Recovery Multi Partner Trust Fund.

The ILO has also worked with partners in Liberia through the provision of technical support so that the national policy on workplace can be achieved. The UN organization along with the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) and the National Aids Commission (NAC) and in partnership with the ILO-OFID programme developed a national workplace policy on HIV and Aids for the rubber sector in 2012. 

Currently, the ILO worked in Liberia has resulted to several conventions ratified including ILO Convention No. 182, worst form of Child Labor, and the Liberia Decent Work Act of 2015, the Democracy Sustainability Act 2012, An Act to Amend chapter 14&15 sub chapter C title of the New Penal law 1976 among others.

Labor Minister Neto Zaza Lighe has commended the ILO for its many assistance to Liberia Decent Work Act of 2015. Minister Lighe at the time of the passage of the Act said that workers will now have better wages for the first time in the history of the country and its labor force.

The Liberia’s Senate Committee Chairperson on Labor Senator Matthew Jay termed the passage of the Act as a new era for Liberian workforce, adding that his committee work along with the sector agency including the ILO for the drafting and finalization of the document.

As we celebrate this day, we should bear in mind that Water and Jobs could change lives by making it a better place and by providing income for all, especially the poor through programs. 

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