2019 Theme: Water Rights as Human Rights
This year’s theme explores human rights activism committed to exposing and/or addressing human rights violations or abuses in relation to water. At the Oak Institute, we believe this topic is important for struggles for dignity, freedom, and justice for people in relation to their environment, specifically water. This might include, for example the privatization of water for profit; the destruction, contamination, and pollution of water resources; the denial of sanitation infrastructure, supporting the spread of disease; environmental racism; and the legal or illegal violation of communities’ water sovereignty.
2019 Oak Humans Rights Fellow: Jamila Bargach
Jamila Bargach is an activist and scholar who has dedicated her life to serving under-resourced communities in Southwest Morocco, creating sustainable initiatives through education and scientific innovation. She is the co-founder of Dar Si Hmad, which operates the largest functioning fog collection project in the world, a system which fosters the independence of Amazigh women in Ait Baamrane, a Berber region, by delivering potable water to their households.
Bargach, an anthropologist by training with a Ph.D. from Rice University, has taught at the National School of Architecture, Rabat. She spent decades as a human rights activist helping organize residents in slums and informal communities in Morocco. In 2006, Bargach co-founded a shelter for women in Casablanca under the aegis of La Ligue Démocratique des Droits des Femmes, which she directed till 2009. Bargach has published several articles on adoption practices, unwed mothers, gender and development, as well as the book Orphans of Islam: Family, Abandonment, and Secret Adoption in Morocco (2002).
“The fact of having water has radically transformed the life of the women, who used to walk for hours to get water, one and two. There was always the fear of not having enough water. Right now, that fear is not there anymore.” —Jamila Bargach
Watch PBS Newshour, How scientists are harvesting fog to secure the world’s water supply
Her training as an anthropologist allows her to work seamlessly with entrenched Berber communities and gives her the tools to understand the social fabric and aid in alleviating root-causes of poverty. A primary goal for her is to increase global awareness about water-rights and accessibility in a world increasingly anxious about its water-future.
Bargach was awarded the Vera Campbell Fellowship for Women Scholar-Practitioners from Developing Nations at the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, which allowed her to lay the foundation for the fog-harvesting project with Dar Si Hmad in 2011. She has been a research fellow at the Ford Foundation, at the American Institute for Maghrebi Studies, and at the Transregional Institute, Princeton University. She is currently working on enhancing the very first environmental and ethnographic field school in Morocco, setting up an environmental education program for underserved school children from the fog collection villages.