Be bold for water, IHE Delft alumna says

Written by Susanna Lööf, on 27 May 2022

IHE Delft alumna Teresa Liguori worked hard to hold back her tears as she delivered a passionate graduation speech at the MSc graduation, held earlier this month. She knows the immense value of the degrees conferred during the ceremony.

The graduates listened attentively as Teresa challenged them to use their education to go out and change the water world for the better. She shared how her IHE Delft education changed her life and laid the basis for a fulfilling career in which she makes a difference: since completing her IHE Delft education in 2009, she has worked on projects in Guatemala and held key positions in the International Water Council, including coordinating the 2022 World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal. She is driven by a strong will to contribute to a world in which more people have access to clean water and sanitation.

But it wasn’t a given that she would finish her degree. She initially found the scientific topics included in her Water Governance and Conflict Resolution LLM course overwhelming. Her university studies in law had made her a lawyer but not prepared her to tackle scientific calculations needed for water management.

Overcoming difficulty

Faced with a particularly challenging exam early in her programme – which was offered in partnership with the University of Dundee’s Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science - she felt completely lost. She walked out of an exam-preparation study session with her classmates as she couldn’t grasp the concepts discussed.

“I feared I was not intelligent enough. I went to my room and packed everything to leave,” she said in an interview.

But then there was a knock on the door. A fellow student – from Indonesia – had suspected something was amiss and came to check on her. He invited himself in and worked with Teresa through the night to help her understand. In the morning, she passed the exam.

Later, she was able to return the favour when the course turned to more legal topics, in which her foundation was solid thanks to her law studies. When she graduated, she had not only deciphered the science but also learned “about people, about collaboration and cooperation.” And interacting with students and teachers from all over the world had expanded her worldview.

“Europeans have this imprint, we think we are the best in the world – we think nobody can do it as well as we do it. But when you go outside and you see that things are done differently but they are extremely well done, so there are other ways to do things,” she said.

She takes pride in her work in Guatemala, where a water law draft she authored remains under consideration, and in her role in efforts to bring sanitation-related topics to the global water agenda.

“First of all be a nice person; behave in good faith,” she said, noting that students seek out IHE Delft because they understand that working on water and sanitation means working for the benefit of society. “So, do that. Really help the others. Be bold. And don’t be involved in corruption.”
Teresa Liguori
IHE Delft alumna

Corruption the biggest water challenge

Asked what the biggest problem that hinders progress in efforts to provide water and sanitation to all, Teresa responds rapidly and succinctly: “corruption”.  Though the water sector is not uniquely corrupt – it is a widespread societal problem – it suffers setbacks due to practices such as nepotism and biases in hiring practices, she said.

“It’s the lack of honesty, it’s the lack of good faith, it’s the lack of integrity of people,” she said. “When you hire someone because of their connections instead of their competence, you make a choice: you make a choice not to work for the improvement of life of others, not to work for the dignity of others.”

The main tool to combat corruption, Teresa said, is education that teaches children and students to always choose the right path. IHE Delft graduates and students – as the water leaders of tomorrow – have a particular responsibility, she added.  

“First of all be a nice person; behave in good faith,” she said, noting that students seek out IHE Delft because they understand that working on water and sanitation means working for the benefit of society. “So, do that. Really help the others. Be bold. And don’t be involved in corruption.”

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