Thursday, December 22, 2011

Woman Water Champion, Rose Wamalwa

Meet Rose Wamalwa. Rose is one of ten women selected as one of Global Women’s Water Initiative Fellowship Program for 2011. GWWI launched this program in response to the need for more women to be actively participating at every level of the water and sanitation sector. GWWI Fellowship Program creates a network of support by linking grassroots women with African and International women working in the environmental, health, water and/or public sector. The goal of the Fellowship program is two fold: 1) to offer hands-on technology construction, project planning and field training for graduate students and/or women professionals in the water and sanitation sectors and 2) to create support teams for the grassroots women teams selected to go through our women and water training program. Learn more about our women and water training program here. By expanding the Fellows’ opportunities to deepen their skills as trainers and facilitators, GWWI’s ultimate goal is to support the Fellows to professionalize their work, so they can get paid for their expertise providing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related services to their communities and beyond.

In the summer of 2011, Rose and the other Fellows participated in a rigorous training program which included leadership development, WASH education, water testing, action planning and hands-on construction of toilets, rainwater harvesting system, and various water treatments. She was assigned grassroots women’s teams to provide support in planning, development and implementation of technologies and water projects in their communities.  Rose is in collaboration with grassroots teams in Kenya and Tanzania supporting them to build technologies, plan holistic strategies, and design sustainable projects. Because of this experience, Rose has since opened her own organization called Women in Water and Natural Resources Conservation which will offer trainings to grassroots women in Western Kenya.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Powerful Partnerships in East Africa

Rosemary and Jacqueline building a Ferro Cement Tank during the 2011 East Africa Women and Water Training in Uganda
When Rosemary and Joy met Jackie and Dorothy, it wasn’t in Kisumu where they all live and work--- It was  in Uganda at the 2011 East Africa Women and Water Training coordinated by Global Women’s Water Initiave (GWWI). Joy and Rosemary were selected because of their work with Kisumu Medical and Education Trust (KMET), an organization that promotes development of under-served communities through innovative health and education programs. KMET was connected to GWWI through American Jewish World Service (AJWS). KMET did not have a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) program as part of their health initiative, but they discovered through surveys that their communities’ identified ‘access to clean water’ as a priority need.  And thus the collaboration between GWWI and KMET began.

Jackie and Dorothy are two professionals who are part of a volunteer youth group and had the vision to provide clean water technologies in their home villages. At the training Jackie was also representing the Kisumu based organization Lake Victoria South Water Services Board, and she had the goal to learn how to build and manage a rainwater harvesting system using a new tank technology so that she could feel confident bringing the technology to LVSWSB to replicate.

Both teams learned how to build the interlocking stabilized soil bricks (ISSB) tank for rain water harvesting. The bricks are made out of marram (clay), sand, a little cement and water, and they are shaped such that they can lock together which makes them much more stable.Using the ISSB supports the intention to use local resources that are also economically attainable, as ISSB technology requires considerably less cement to make. The ISSB tanks are nearly half the price to build a ferro-cement or plastic tank  which are the most common technologies implemented around the region. Furthermore, the special machine used to compress the bricks is a simple technology that could be easily learned and used by anyone.

Before the Kisumu teams left the training in Uganda, they had already begun collaborating, and knew that having the interlocking machine was key to introducing and building the rain water harvesting tanks. When KMET implemented its technology, Dorothy and Jackie came by the site frequently to support, further helping them them to solidify what they had previously learned at the training. This also means that in the following week when Dorothy and Jackie implemented, they had a much easier time constructing their tank thanks to the learnings from Joyce and Rosemary. Both teams have plans to possibly purchase an interlocking machine together (about $1300US) so they can share it  and use it to make and sell bricks for income-generation.

We envision  many more of such collaborations and partnerships to emerge as we undertake subsequent trainings uniting women for a thriving planet. We know that these trainings are the first point of contact for such powerful networking  and connections to be created, and we want to build on these opportunities to maintain connections and linkages that emerge. This, combined with the vision of engaging to build a strong movement of women championing environmental causes, makes  a compelling case for staying aligned and connected. We hope that the East Africa Network for Women and the Environment that WEA’s Africa Program is debuting, will be the platform for this vision to materialize and for many more partnerships and collaborations to blossom.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Planting Seeds of Resilience

Last week, we celebrated the Women's Earth Alliance India Program at our special event--Seeds of Resilience: Women Farmers Striving in the Face of Climate Change

Be sure to check out photos from the event here and watch the new India video

We are touched by the outpouring of support from our community, and were glad to share personal stories of how women farmers hold the key to promoting food security in India. A special thank you to our Promotional Partners, and those who tabled at the Local Solutions Salon, including AWID, Balance Edutainment/Pacha's Pajamas, Bay Localize, DIG Cooperative, Earth Island Institute, Ecology Center, Global Exchange, Global Fund for Women, Harmony Festival, IDEX, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, Planting Justice, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, The Living Seed Company and Urban Adamah. A warm thank you to Todd Boston and Aharon for offering their musical gifts and performing live at the event.

We are proud to stand in solidarity with the efforts of our incredible grassroots partner, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, and to support the bold visions of rural women, who are the rising new leaders in their communities and are leading others by example by farming organically, by stewarding their natural resources and building the capacities of other women farmers to do the same.

We are also grateful to be graced by the wise words of Joanna Macy. She, too, affirmed that the women farmers in the India Training, like Ram Ratti and Manju Devi, are leaders in growing food sustainably - a crucial role given how the modern world's food system is impacting our environment and climate. 

Thank you for planting seeds of resilience in our hearts by supporting the India Program. We look forward to deepening our work in India in 2012 and beyond. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

WEA Advocacy Training: Building Bridges for Dialogue and Collaboration

This November 4th – 6th, WEA hosted our first Advocacy Training, in partnership with Indigenous Environmental Network. We’re proud to share that the Training was a success.
Our Training took place at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA, which is located on Ohlone territory. Muwekma Ohlone elder Ann Marie Sayers opened the Training on Friday morning with a welcome and blessing.

Over the course of these three packed days, participants formed new partnerships, shared intensive dialogue, and learned key tools and strategies for advancing environmental justice with Indigenous peoples. The Training also yielded several mandates for WEA’s integral forward motion, as we continue deepening our relationships and our legal and policy advocacy work for environmental justice in collaboration with grassroots Indigenous women leaders.

The Training engaged approximately 35 advocates as new members of the WEA Advocacy Network – a great boon to the stability and longevity of our work. Participants were almost entirely advocates who were not previously involved in the Advocacy Network. Our participants came from all over the United States, representing some of the following organizations: Center for Biological Diversity; Earthjustice; International Accountability Project; NAACP; Three Degrees Project; University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic; and many more.

I just wanted to extend some gratitude for having the opportunity to take part in such an enriching and wonderful event. I left the training forever changed. I look forward to being part of the vibrant and wonderful advocacy network and also continuing to take part in the other elements of WEA.
- Kimaada LeGendre, Vermont Law School, advocate/ participant

We were honored by participation and presentations from representatives from 18 Indigenous-led groups, and 7 non-Indigenous groups with a history of strong alliances with Indigenous peoples. Presenters and facilitators provided critical, foundational knowledge to participants on the process of building successful alliances, tools and strategies for success, and current needs for legal and policy advocacy support.

As a Native person, a practitioner, and an attorney, I found it very inspiring and helpful to strategize in a way that’s real and that’s culturally grounded – this is something very rare, and has given me a lot of hope for the work that I do.
- Kapua Sproat (Kanaka Maoli), Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, presenter

Many of the Indigenous groups represented at the Training, as well as several others, shared requests for advocacy collaboration through our docket. Already, first-level discussions have been initiated towards 11 collaborations between grassroots Indigenous activists, with the legal and policy advocates who participated. Please stay tuned for more details about the specific advocacy initiatives that arise from the Training, and the next steps for WEA’s North America program.

Thanks to WEA's organizational partner, Indigenous Environmental Network; Steering Committee members - including Jihan Gearon (Dine') of Black Mesa Water Coalition, Debra Harry (Kooyooe Dukaddo) of Indigenous Peoples' Council on Biocolonialism, Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) of Honor the Earth, Toby McLeod of Sacred Land Film Project, Tia Oros Peters (Zuni) of Seventh Generation Fund, Carolyn Raffensperger of Science and Environmental Health Network; our lead facilitator Roberto Vargas, all the WEA staff and volunteers who produced the Training, all those who contributed financial resources towards the Training, and most of all, everyone who attended and gave so much of themselves towards the success of our first Advocacy Training.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Making Ripples: Zero to 2800 in Four Months

Exciting news rippling out from East Africa! It has been four months since the Global Women’s Water Initiative completed Phase One of our third African Women and Water Training Program in Kampala, Uganda (Read more about the Phase 1). Fifty two women from East Africa and the United States came to Kampala to attend the GWWI Training to learn educational and technological solutions to address their communities’ water and sanitation needs. Most were strangers when they arrived, but by the time they left Kampala, partnerships were formed which has rippled out into waves of change in communities across East Africa.

Today, over 2800 people have access to clean water and sanitation!
And this is just the beginning.

How did they do this? Immediately after the Kampala Training in Phase 2 of the program, GWWI Grassroots Teams were given an opportunity to apply for a $1500 seed grant to implement what they learned. 15 teams received their grants, mobilized their communities, and with support from the GWWI coordinating team (trainers, fellows, and trainers-in-training), built nine rainwater harvesting systems with storage tanks, and introduced four Biosand Filter and three Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine projects in slum and rural communities in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

What did we learn from the past?
 This GWWI created a WASH Peer Support Network by incorporating East African and International Fellows as well as GWWI graduates (Trainer’s in Training or TT) to partner with the Grassroots Teams to help them reach their goals. The Support Network act as global peers offering assistance in coordinating, co-training and  problem-solving during every step of the planning and implementation process. In our past GWWI trainings in Kenya (2008) and Ghana (2010), it took up to a year or more for the Grassroots Teams to implement their first technology. This cycle took less than four months. Not only have we seen greater impact, but faster implementation as well much in part because of this network.

What’s next?
As we transition into Phase 3, the participants must mobilize their own resources to replicate technologies learned during the training to expand their WASH programs to meet the GWWI criteria for two technology implementations within a year. This means engaging local leaders and community members for long term support, acquiring building materials, planning all logistics of construction and outreach and designing a larger scale program to have a greater reach.  Two teams have already implemented their second technology for Phase 3 and we expect two additional Teams to do so by the end of the year!

The East Africa Network for Women and the Environment!
Drawing and building on the significant contributions by a strong peer support  network of international and East African fellows as well as GWWI graduates/Trainers-in-Training, Women’s Earth Alliance’s Africa program is responding with the creation of an East Africa Network for Women and the Environment (EANWE). The creation of such a network to link and connect women at the helm of environmental and climate justice issues is long overdue, and the Africa program is excited to be in the initial stages of forming the East Africa Network for Women and the Environment. This Network aims to create linkages and networking opportunities for the partners of the Africa Program and will connect environmental activists, women’s right advocates, development practitioners, non-profit and community based organizations (CBO) working at the nexus of women and the environment. Through EANWE, members connect, share knowledge and build coalitions to address emerging issues facing women and the environment in East Africa. Networking remains a critical tool for women and girls to break the cycle of dependency and to engage in development at all levels and it also allows for highlighting and amplifying women’s contributions and voices in seeking solutions to the environmental and climate issues of our time.