Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Trainer-in-Training shares her story from the 2011 East African Women and Water Advanced Training

The following blog post was written by Advanced Training Participant Nansubuga Immaculate.  Immaculate is a Trainer-In-Training at the 2011 East African Women and Water Advanced Training in Kampala, Uganda, where she is training to become a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) practitioner. She has come to the training from Katosi, Uganda, along with two other women from her organization, Rose and Mastuula, who participated in the Grassroots Women and Water training.  You can read Immaculate's inspiring story below.

Nansubuga Immaculate (in pink hat) at the 2011 GWWI Training in Uganda.

While at work, my boss sent me a link to the 2011 Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) East African Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda and encouraged me to look it up and apply. Honestly, it took me a whole week to visit the link. But when I did, I just knew I could not miss out on this opportunity. Prior to the training, I believed that I was not a whole woman leader, even though my profession required good leadership traits. Despite this, I wanted to attend the GWWI training because I considered it a great opportunity to elevate my Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) skills and bring positive change to the Mukono community, especially among the women from Katosi Women Development Trust (KWDT).  The action-planning component of the Training appealed to me. I have always wanted to know how to make an action plan and be able to implement the strategies from start to finish. Despite my keen interest, I questioned my ability to contribute to and qualify for the 2011 GWWI Training. After all, I had never attended a GLOBAL conference before.

Despite my fear, I was selected to be a participant (Trainer-in-Training) of the first annual GWWI Advanced Training Program, where I joined an amazing group of women leaders from around the world to discuss water and sanitation issues that threaten East Africa. During the training, I yearned to be a loud and strong speaker, but I realized that I am soft-voiced. Thank God for the Personal SWOT  [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats] analysis. Through this exercise, my leadership style was realized, and I gradually understood that my weaknesses are another’s strengths and that working together makes our impact stronger. I am now content with my communication skills. I am soft-voiced, but firm and eloquent, which is an added advantage while facilitating trainings, interviews, and the one-on-one conservations that I facilitated during the Grassroots Training. Using my new-found strengths, I discovered that though quiet of voice, I can still be a strong lobby for rural communities to achieve equal development.

Katosi Women Development Trust (KWDT) selected Rose and Mastuula to attend the 2011 Grassroots Training in Kampala. Mastuula and Rose saw the training as a great opportunity to learn to construct a Biosand Water Filter (BSF) to increase access to clean water in women-run households throughout the Katosi District. At the training they stood beside their East African sisters, affirming that women are the water stewards in their communities and have to stand up and act for themselves--especially widows. Women should stop self-pitying themselves because it is a strong contributing factor to under-development in rural communities. Through the training, they embraced the power of collective sharing, working in sisterhood with participants from communities throughout East Africa to change attitudes and negative behaviors of communities towards water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

At the training, we learned that it is crucial to consider and integrate all community stakeholders and their needs when establishing any new water project. We covered sessions on climate change, leadership, WASH and appropriate technologies. The climate change sessions really resonated with me. In my community, climate change and its impacts are gradually affecting the livelihoods of the rural people. Their economies, health and environment are dwindling. The last long dry spells early this year affected agricultural productions and contributed to scarcity of water. Three KWDT women’s cows died and over ten were infected with diseases. The reduction in food productivity led to malnutrition, and scarcity of water increased poor sanitation--especially in schools and communal centers. My team identified the need for our community to be sensitized and made aware of the climate change impacts, mitigation, and adaptation techniques.

And to achieve my team’s WASH vision of “increased accessibility to clean safe drinking water in rural households,” we have to use an inclusive and participatory approach.  My team wants to achieve this big vision of all rural women living healthy lives and empowered to participate in economic, social, and political development processes. We also want to be free from dependency and achieve self-supply of not only WASH facilities, but also what the world offers for a better change among rural women.

So, this training is a big step to achieving our goal. Though this is a big challenge ahead of Katosi Women, we have to put the fears aside and stand strongly to achieve this.

Thanks to Gemma, Jan, Maame, Debbie, Beth, Women’s Earth Alliance, iCON, Crabgrass, the GWWI participants, the strong communities and NGOs for enabling us to take this step.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Saving the San Francisco Peaks

The San Francisco Peaks
Plans are underway to lay down 14 miles of pipeline up to the top of the San Francisco Peaks where a 10 million gallon wastewater reservoir will be created to generate artificial snow. Why? To increase the number of annual skiable days at Arizona Snowbowl.
The Peaks, which rise to 12,000 feet above Flagstaff, Arizona at the Western edge of Navajo lands, are regarded as a sacred place to thirteen indigenous tribes in the Northern Arizona region.
The Hopi believe that ancestral kachina spirits live atop the mountain, and cause the rain and snow to fall—and that natural snowmaking cycles may cease if the kachinas witness humans manufacturing snow. Yavapai-Apache Chairman Vincent Randall describes the San Francisco Peaks as one of the "sacred places where the Earth brushes up against the unseen world.” And the mountain’s traditional Navajo name is Doo'ko'oosliidd, which means "Shining On Top," and has traditionally been accessed by medicine men for the collection of herbs for healing ceremonies.
The ski area, which was originally built in the 1930’s and expanded significantly in 1979 despite protests and lawsuits, has been the site of years of struggle for tribes including the Hopi, Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai Apache, and White Mountain Apache.
Opponents of the wastewater plan filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the National Environmental Protection Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. The case moved through the courts until a 12-judge 9th Circuit Court ruled that the artificial snowmaking system was innocuous because Navajo tradition is merely a “subjective spiritual experience,” thus not entitled to legislative protection.
Citizens filed a second lawsuit asserting that the federal government did not properly and adequately review the potential environmental and public health risks associated with the use of artificial snow. In December 2010, U.S. Federal Judge Mary Murguia ruled that the U.S. Forest Service did, in fact,adequately consider the safety of using reclaimed water to generate artificial snow. Murguia’s December 2010 decision is now on appeal before the 9th circuit.
The San Francisco Peaks are to the Colorado Plateau tribes what the most revered sanctuaries are to people of Western monotheistic traditions: a holy place. To contaminate the Peaks with the artificial snowmaking system would be equivalent to building a 10 million gallon sewage pool on the floors of Westminster Abbey. Can this be considered a “subjective spiritual experience”?
One activist explains her reaction: “This last court decision for us told us that our cultural belief, our spiritual belief, is not a valid religion—it’s subjective spiritual feelings. For traditional people who have grown up with our identity and who carry on these ways of life since the beginning of time and want to ensure that our children have these spiritual connections as well, to be told that your ways of life, your culture, is a spiritual subjective feeling, is one of the most painful feelings that I think anybody could ever feel. That you believe, what your ancestors have fought for, what they’ve carried on, what they’ve died for, is not valid.”
Stay tuned to for updates on the efforts to protect the Peaks from contamination.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Scenes from the 2011 East African Women and Water Training

The 2011 East African Women and Water Training in Uganda has concluded, and what a success it was!  We invite you to take a look at photos from these inspiring two weeks:

Be sure to check back in with us---we will be posting more on the Training soon.  We can't wait to share with you all of the behind-the-scenes stories!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

10K and one week to go to meet our 150K match from the 2011 Gala!

Dear Friends,

The train keeps on moving at Women's Earth Alliance, but we want to take a moment to remember the previous stop: our 5-Year Anniversary Gala, Unlocking the Future. The night was a resounding success; we raised our voices, we laughed and celebrated, no one's car got towed, and thanks to the generosity of our attendees and sponsors, we came within $10,000 of reaching our $150,000 match for 2011. We have a short period of time to complete this challenge. Please jump on the train with a contribution today, either online or by check to Women's Earth Alliance, 2150 Allston Way, Suite 460, Berkeley, CA 94704. Your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar!

Read more about the Gala, see photos and watch videos here

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When Women Face the Music, We All Get To Sing

This week WEA is featured in HuffPost Impact's article "Changing the Channel From Fear: When Women Face the Music, We All Get To Sing."  The post includes an interview with WEA Co-Director Melinda Kramer.

Leah Lamb writes, These women are facing straight into the challenges of their communities and are finding ways to live in the celebration that comes with addressing issues straight on.

Read the article to learn more about what inspires Melinda to invest in women environmental leaders around the world and what WEA is up to now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WEA Interview on Women Rising: National Radio Project

National Radio Project recently interviewed India Program Director Rucha Chitnis, Africa Program Director Maame Yelbert Obeng, and GWWI Director Gemma Bulos for its Women Rising radio program.

Click here to listen to the interview and learn more about women's rights to water, land, and farming.

"Women are realizing that they are carpenters; they are masons who are hitting these nails, building these rainwater harvesting systems. Women were mixing the concrete and putting the cement in to build Ecosand toilets.  We became technology people. We became lab people. We were able to use our versatility as women."
        -Maame Yelbert-Obeng on the 2010 West African Women and Water Training                                                             

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coming Soon: WEA Advocacy Training, November 4th-6th

North American indigenous communities face both acute and chronic challenges resulting from environmental degradation.  In response to the systemic and intentional targeting of indigenous lands and communities for environmentally-destructive industrial projects such as mines, hazardous waste facilities, oil refineries and coal-fired power plants, the indigenous environmental justice movement – a grassroots-led movement with national impact – has arisen within the past several decades to demand sustainability and equity.

WEA’s North America Program links our Advocacy Network of pro bono legal, policy and business advocates nationwide with indigenous women leading grassroots environmental campaigns in North America.  

This November, WEA will host its first ever Advocacy Training, “Building Capacity for Strategic Collaboration on Indigenous Environmental Justice.”  In solidarity, leaders in environmental and indigenous advocacy will come together to:

Learn :: Hear from leading activists and advocates on best practices for protecting land and health, and advancing renewable energy on Indigenous land.

Connect :: Build a community of collaboration with the rapid response WEA Advocacy Network and long-term Working Groups.

Act :: Map advocacy strategies using proven and emerging tools.

Be sure to check back with us as we get closer to November, and in the mean time, click here for more information!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Get on Board!

Unlocking the Future, WEA's 5-Year Anniversary Gala on May 18th was a beautiful gathering of our friends and allies. We extend gratitude to those who attended and to all who have joined us over the past five years--it's been an incredible journey so far! 

Scenes from the celebration:

The WEA team opens the night with a song:

Africa Director Maame Yelbert-Obeng's opening speech:

Co-Director Melinda Kramer's speech:

Co-Director Amira Diamond shares her words:

Kavita Ramdas, former CEO of Global Fund for Women, shares her inspiring words and song:

2010 African Women and Water Participant Catherine Mwengella talks about the impact of WEA on her community:

Environmentalist, activist, and writer Paul Hawken shared inspirational words about unlocking the future by moving from 'me' to we."

Together, we continue to unlock a thriving future...and we hope you join us! For more photos and videos from the Gala, click here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seeds and Their Keepers are Key to Preserving India’s Food Diversity

In India, where food security is threatened by growing climate unpredictability and industrial agriculture, women farmers are leading the way to safeguard the biodiversity of indigenous crops. 

Want to learn more? Check out this blog post written by India Program Director Rucha Chitnis on Earth Island Journals’ blog, EnvironmentaList!

Photo by Melinda Kramer

Fellows in Action! 2011 East African Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda.

Photo: Beth Robertson

The 2011 East African Women and Water Training has begun! Women's Earth Alliance's Global Women's Water Initiative, in partnership with Crabgrass and iCon Women and Young People's Leadership Academy, is currently leading the third African Women and Water Training,  strengthening women's voices  in the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector.  To learn more about GWWI and the 2011 East African Women and Water Training  in Kampala, Uganda, click here.

GWWI Fellows  are women graduate students and development professionals from around the globe who act as global peers for participants of the 2011 Grassroots Training in Uganda. For full bios of the 2011 GWWI fellows, click here.

The following post is written by GWWI Fellow Samantha Winter
I have always imagined a world in which every woman could stand up in front of a room full of sisters, friends, or strangers and say without hesitation, without self-doubt, without self-criticism, “I am a powerful woman! I am a leader! I am a global water champion!”

Today was an inspiring manifestation of the strength, wisdom, compassion, and hope of every woman that lives each day with a dream that global access to reliable, adequate and safe sources of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is an achievable reality. It was the first official day of the 2011 East Africa Global Women’s Water Initiative Training in Uganda—a day in which the seed of an empowered world was planted. I have no doubt that it was also the first day of many in which that seed will continue to be nourished through the actions, love, and support of GWWI women leaders from across five nations. Although today was only the beginning of our journey as GWWI fellows, there is already a sense of kinship and camaraderie among the impassioned women, and it gives me hope that the transition for a better world is alive and well within the hearts, minds, and work of every woman around the globe.

Each woman present in the training shared a unique and fundamental connection to water; yet, despite the many differences in personal experience, background, or knowledge of water, almost everyone seemed to embrace the ideas that water is the essence of women, women are the heart of water, and water symbolizes peace. Today was an internal journey as much as an external forum for cross-cultural information sharing. It was an opportunity to rekindle the spirit of water and leadership within each of us, and to open up our minds, bodies, and hearts—our whole beings—to the power and knowledge of ourselves and our fellow water sisters and champions. Through leadership activities, program and personal introductions, and a discussion on climate change I felt the enthusiasm, the, passion, and the exuberance surrounding women’s connection with, roles in and contributions to WASH expand steadily throughout the day. In addition, I watched every participant gallantly bridge cultural and racial boundaries, form relationships, build trust, and put her faith in the power of a unified network of resilient women that will, undoubtedly, expand the reach of WASH throughout communities around the world. I truly believe that together we will exceed expectations, shatter social, political, and institutional boundaries, and show all the men, youth, children, naysayers and future leaders in our own communities and around the world that empowered women have the power and the capacity to create lasting, sustainable development, particularly in the WASH sector. After all, water is the essence of women, women are the heart of water, and water is peace.  We are the peace leaders!

So let the GWWI games continue!