Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give a Sh*t

If you didn’t know, Nov 19 was World Toilet Day. Why, you ask, would we dedicate a day recognized around the world - to a toilet? Because one out of three people on the planet do not have access to one. The lack of safe disposal and treatment of human waste is one of the major causes of biological contamination in water, which spreads diseases like cholera, dysentery, giardia etc. One of the main symptoms of water related disease is diarrhea, which can also lead to malnutrition--the highest cause of death in the world. What does that mean? There is sh*t in the water and people are getting sick from drinking and using dirty water. 

But for girls, that isn’t the half of it. Having a toilet could determine a girls future. If there are no toilets in schools, then girls who have started their menstrual cycle can miss school at least one week per month and sometimes drop out entirely.

Global Women’s Water Initiative is dedicated to supporting women and girls to learn the importance of clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and how they are all intricately linked. If we have clean water and toilets, but don’t wash our hands, we can get sick. If we have a water source and people sh*t anywhere, water can get contaminated especially during rainy season. If we wash our hands, but use dirty water and no soap, we are at high risk of disease. You get the picture. Effective water, sanitation AND hygiene practices must be addressed together and in an integrated way.

GWWI provides the tools for women to address these issues deeply and holistically. Women who attend our trainings are able to test water for contamination, share effective WASH practices to improve hygiene practices, offer strategies to protect water sources, treat contaminated water and build appropriate technologies that can reduce the risk of water-related disease.

Can you imagine what kinds of opportunities can arise for women and girls by just having a toilet? GWWI does. Won’t you give a sh*t and join us?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Matilda is why WEA believes...

Matilda (far right) with women from the Mukono Women's AIDS Task Force (MWATF) in Mukono, Uganda in 2011

Three years ago Matilda Nabukonde had never picked up a shovel. Today, she can build rainwater harvesting systems (RWH), biosand water filters (BSF) and ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines. She offers hygiene education workshops to hundreds of people in remote rural areas in Uganda and slums of Kampala. A grandmother and caretaker, Matilda is a powerful force in the communities she serves. 

We first met Matilda when she was selected to attend the Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) 2008 Women and Water Training in Nairobi, Kenya. A representative of a local organization called Uganda Community Based Association for Children’s Welfare (UCOBAC), Matilda joined us in Kenya because she wanted to launch a clean water initiative for her community. Despite having malaria, Matilda participated in all workshops; she learned to build a ferro-cement tank, harvest water off thatched roofs and collect rainwater by building a simple “purpose built” system—an affordable catchment using four posts and a small sheet of corrugated iron sheets to create a free-standing sloping surface.

After the training Matilda, along with the other 14 participant teams, received a seed grant from GWWI to construct a water and sanitation project in her community. Realizing the high cost of constructing one ferro-cement tank, Matilda and her partner invested in several small purpose-built systems that were more cost-effective and appropriate for their community. Together, they built multiple systems and trained grandmothers and orphans how to do the same. When the money ran out, Matilda raised additional funds to train and build more systems.

Matilda’s story as a WASH implementer didn't stop at the 2008 training.

In 2010, Matilda was interested in expanding the budding Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) program at her organization UCOBAC.  So, she attended a Biosand Water Filter training conducted by Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) partner organization, A Single Drop. At the workshop, Matilda deepened her knowledge on water treatment processes to improve water quality in areas where water is abundant but not safe to drink.

Following the training, Matilda built and installed filters at UCOBAC’s newly opened health clinic serving slum dwellers in Kampala. She is currently designing a micro-business plan to expand her safe water project. Meanwhile, she also designed a more comprehensive WASH educational outreach campaign utilizing the Portable Microbiology Lab to test water for fecal contamination. She uses the results of the tests to educate the communities on the impacts of poor sanitation to convince communities that better hygiene practices, and source protection techniques are important first steps to better health. 

In 2011, we responded to the needs of graduates with great promising leadership like Matilda. Along with other past Women and Water Training graduates, Matilda was invited to participate in an Advanced Training Program designed to support women like Matilda who wanted to professionalize their water and sanitation skills to become full-service WASH Trainers. As a Trainer-in Training, Matilda mentored the new Grassroots Teams, supporting them as they designed their WASH projects. She also added an additional technology—the Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine (VIP)—to her WASH toolbox. Within weeks of the training, Matilda and her team returned to the Chamanga slum and mobilized a community to build a new latrine. 

Matilda gives us hope that women leaders can transform their own communities.  Matilda is now equipped with multiple solutions to improve health in her community and surrounding ones.  Her services are in demand in a sector where men have been traditionally sought. She sets a strong example for other women who have the opportunity to recognize that not only do they hold the solutions, they can build them.

We are inspired by Matilda and stand in solidarity with our Ugandan sister as she restores balance to the earth.

Support our work in uplifting the leadership of women like Matilda. The ripple effect is real.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Live from the 3rd Phase of the Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training

Women Farmer and Participant of the 2011 Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training in Uttar Pradesh, India
The following is a report from India Program Director, Rucha Chitnis, who is in Uttar Pradesh, India for the final phase of the India Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training. 
Climate change and food security continue to emerge as key global issues. In particular, they pose as persistent and disproportionate challenges for women. This year, WEA partnered with Indian organization, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) to design the ground-breaking Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training in Northern India.  The 3 phase training supports women farmers to respond to climate change with resilience so that they can ensure the food security and well-being of their families and communities. There have been two previous phases of this training--one in April 2011, the other in September 2011--where  Indian women farmers gathered to gain hands-on skills in ecological farming techniques, develop peer networks, learn ways to mitigate the impacts of climate change, develop year-long action plans, and receive seed grants to launch community projects. 

During this final phase of the Training, participants strategized on advocacy and movement-building strategies to demand the recognition of women as farmers and India's key food producers, and to assert their rights to land and other resources (including government extension services that are rarely available for women farmers).

This Training is now in its final phase in Uttar Pradesh, reuniting 30 women farmers to share their learnings from the past 6 months of action plan implementation in their communities. Many of their action plans sought to improve the food security of small and marginal women farmers in the face of devastating floods. 

Reena a participant from Bihar, shared how she facilitated the planting of 6,000 trees in 15 villages through her network of women's groups and set up 4 farmer clubs of women, who were trained on organic farming practices.  Manju, a trainer from Bihar, created 11 farmer committees of 144 women, and coordinated trainings for women on seed saving, mixed farming, bio-pesticides, and organic kitchen gardens. Want to read more?

Two of the participants of the 2011 Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training in Uttar Pradesh, India

"One tree equals the birth of a 100 sons."
Reena, a participant at the Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training