Join For Water has a new director

"You don't necessarily have to become a prominent activist to help fight water injustice: by consuming water more consciously, you're already making an important difference."

Bart Dewaele (51) is the new director of Join For Water and succeeds Vincent Volckaert, who led the organisation from 2013 to 2020. Bart introduces a wealth of experience. “On a global scale, it becomes clear how (un)judicious water use is directly related to the climate crisis. In these new local and global contexts, we have to remain ingenious in order to offer solutions that are sustainable, technically sound, socially just and anchored in the community.”

Bart Dewaele: “Water is a tangible matter that we deal with on a daily basis. Our body is 2/3rd water. Thirst cuts deeply. Getting sick as a consequence of not washing hands has become an all too familiar phenomenon. Having access to tap water at home is an obvious thing to us.

You can tie more complex themes to this familiar daily experience. Women bear most of the burden of providing water: this is in most cases an expression of gender injustice. Water is becoming private property and as precious as gold. These mechanisms widen the gap of inequality. Persistent droughts are still insufficiently recognized as a consequence of global warming: politicians need to wake us up because the climate issue is an urgent crisis.

Because water is everywhere, but also part of our own lives, everyone gets the chance to do something for themselves. You don't necessarily have to become a prominent activist to help in the fight against water injustice: by consuming water more consciously, you already make an important difference. 

Career

Bart Dewaele: "Just before military service was abolished, I was drafted in 1991. Learning to shoot bullets and throw bombs to take other people's lives, was not in keeping with my conscience. As a conscientious objector, I had to commit myself to the community twice as much. I was allowed to choose for myself where I would sweat out this 'punishment'. It was 11.11.11 - the umbrella organisation of the North-South movement - where I supported the volunteers in Flemish Brabant. My salary wasn't much but - as it should be for a development organisation - I got opportunities to be creative, make mistakes and keep improving myself.

During my first deployment in the South from 1993 to 1996 things went fast. I was able to work on a project in a remote town in northern Ghana. I was allowed to contribute to the establishment of a radio station that would bring educational programmes as well as local music. The material side of that foundation went very well, the radio station came into being and it still exists today. But it only took off when the local population really took control of it. A wise lesson that I still carry with me to this day.

After a few years as a teacher at the VTI Waregem, I returned to Africa with my wife and two toddlers in 2000. From Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso I represented Broederlijk Delen in the Sahel. In this arid region, water is crucial for a healthy life as well as for agriculture.

In 2004, I became head of the Southern branch of Broederlijk Delen in Brussels. A wealth of experience that served me in 2007 when taking on the job of general director of VVOB, a non-profit organisation of the Flemish government that strengthens the quality of education in developing countries. After two mandates in that function, for the duration of a year I jumped in as interim head of the programmes of Oxfam Solidarity.”

Ambitions

Bart Dewaele: "Join For Water is an NGO that is driven by human rights and therefore looks beyond the borders of our village and country. In the South, people are hit the hardest by a lack of access to clean water. With our support to local partners, Join For Water will continue to excel in projects that use resources efficiently and deliver concrete results. Entrepreneurs and the private sector are our allies to manage water fairly and sustainably.

Water is a right for citizens, but it is the duty of the government to ensure this right. This is where Join For Water can be even more constructively critical towards the responsible authorities, in partner countries, internationally but also in Belgium.

Join For Water can become even better internationally known as the expert in making users, authorities and the private sector work together on water and sanitation. In our own country, our voice could sound even louder in order to always include the dimension of human rights and sustainability in water management. We can develop even more action models around 'our' water business for citizens and volunteers.”

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