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Lady of the water

Concern about the quality of water resources leads a young woman from the state of Santa Catarina to work for the UN

Personal archivesAngela Renata Cordeiro Ortigara still remembers the smell emitted on rainy days by the Peixe river in Videira, in the interior of Santa Catarina. “Swine producers confirm that a strong water current is needed to remove animal waste,” she says. Concern for water quality in her native city motivated her to enroll in an environmental sanitation technology course at the University of Western Santa Catarina in 2003.

Her strong performance during the course was noteworthy and, accepting the recommendation of a professor, she made the decision to continue in this field for her academic career. Having been selected in the Correios (national postal service) public competition, Angela applied for a position at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Florianópolis. “Going against my family’s wishes, I left my government position to do a master’s in environmental engineering,” she says.

So, at 22 years of age, with her interest in developing strategies for the treatment of waste produced by wineries near the Peixe river, she enrolled in a postgraduate program. Before finishing her master’s, she decided to do her doctorate outside Brazil. “I contacted various authors of articles I used in my research to determine the possibility of studying in their departments,” she recalls.

One of the researchers she wrote to suggested she apply for the Erasmus Mundus Program, financed by the European Union, and enroll in the University of Trento, where she lectured. Angela was accepted and she moved to Italy. “I worked on strategies for sewage treatment in communities of the region.”

Her desire to go further prompted her to seek opportunities associated with the field at the United Nations (UN). In 2012, at 27 years of age, she was selected for a two-month practicum at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York, USA. “I analyzed reports by the member states about water issues associated with the Millennium Development Goals,” she recounts.

Returning to Italy, she completed her doctorate and began working as a UN consultant on water resources. She worked for the UN World Water Assessment Programme, implementing training programs for water and sustainable development in African countries and developing global reports.

Today, she coordinates the development of the UN-Water report “Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report,” offering recommendations for countries on which approach to adopt. “The situation of global water resources and sanitation can be improved and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers a platform for accelerating this process.”