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Water: A Source of Life, Connection and Hope

By Elizabeth  Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

By Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

Many thanks to the Biotope of Healing at Tamera Community and the Water Symposium 2013. Their experience of restoring water landscapes is reminiscent of Mikhail Kravcik’s statement: “The most important right in the world is the residential rights of a drop of water “…to return again to the cycle of life.

Water is the source of life; we are water beings who all belong to the water cycle. We are part of it. We all originate in a “big drop” growing inside a woman’s body, thanks to love, and that is something that moves me so deeply in my personal life. Humans are part of the water cycle, and through water we can connect with this fact in our daily lives, with the small details of life and through water we relate to the very complex problems of water on the Planet. This also connects us at a level that opens up the possibility to conceive of a utopia. Water has the power to drive our feelings and our thoughts to the sky, to give thanks for life.

I became conscious of this vital importance of water in 2000. Just after the Water War in Cochabamba, when the people’s courage reminded us a very simple concept based on the most basic common sense: WATER IS LIFE. At that time we had forgotten it, as consequence of a long economic adjustment program in the 1990’s that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had imposed in our region in conjunction with complicit national neoliberal governments. Such a simple phrase mobilized thousands of people, almost forcing the Bolivian president to resign, forcing out the powerful U.S. multinational Bechtel and, for a while, the people recovered control over their water systems.

As an activist and a researcher, I soon noticed that women were key actors in this huge mobilization, particularly women belonging to the rural irrigators trade unions. In Bolivia there are still about 4,500 irrigation systems that manage water independent of the government or the state. They are traditional water organizations in rural communities who manage water for agricultural activities and they are very systematically organized.

Women play a very important role in those organizations, not only as authorities of the water systems, but also providing their organizations a vision of the details in the daily task of providing water for agriculture; they are responsible for care.

Urban women also; the poorest, vendors in the popular markets, neighbors that know how to provide water to their families, sometimes taking many hours to collect water. They too took an active part in the struggles in the streets. They organized so quickly providing solidarity in the form of pots of food to feed the water activists. In just a couple of days they organized this solidary system much to the concern of the elites that were waiting watching in fear looking out from their windows and hoping for a favorable end of the conflict.

The people won and, since then, we became connected to the World. Water, once again, connected us to other people… this time all over the Planet. The indigenous wisdom and knowledge gave us the key words to defend water and spread this vision worldwide.

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