Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When women thrive, communities thrive: Join us at the 2011 Bioneers Conference for a day-long workshop on Leadership!

We are delighted to announce that the WEA Team, as part of the 2011 Bioneers Conference's Cultivating Women's Leadership program, will be leading a special one-day intensive workshop, "Leadership at the Nexus: When Women Thrive, Communities Thrive." On Monday, October 17th, WEA Directors Amira Diamond, Caitlin Sislin, Gemma Bulos, Maame Yelbert-Obeng, Melinda Kramer, and Rucha Chitnis will offer a day of inspiration as they share stories from around the globe of women leaders who are cultivating transformation in the face of climate change and environmental degradation.

We invite you to come along with us on this leadership journey for our 2 sessions during Bioneers—Friday, October 14 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm and Monday, October 17th 9:00 am - 5:30 pm. Bioneers is offering friends of Women's Earth Alliance a 20% discount on tickets to attend the event, which will feature extraordinary women leaders and innovators with breakthrough solutions for some of the gravest issues of our time. You can purchase your discounted tickets here by using the discount code Women20. 

Join the Women's Earth Alliance Team as we connect to the diverse and powerful movement for uplifting women's leadership and engaged activism. Clarify your own vision as a leader by drawing upon courageous stories of women who ignite and sustain environmental and social change around the world.  We'll also share some tried and true leadership tools we've used over the years.

Together, we will practice the art of collaborative leadership to discover how we can help restore the balance in the world by showing up, listening, and acting in solidarity. Join us!

Friday, September 16, 2011

When I grow up, I want to be an engineer!

Photos and Text by Beth Robertson (Research Fellow)


2011 Grassroots Training Participants and Katuuso Primary School Students during the VIP Latrine Construction



At Katuuso Primary School in Uganda—the site where the 2011 GWWI East Africa Grassroots Training built and handed over two water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) technologies—the students, especially the girls, were shocked to see women constructing rainwater harvesting (RWH) tanks and ventilated improved pits (VIP) latrines to serve the campus’ 600 students. The girls at the school never thought that women could build these technologies. Why would they, when they had been socialized to believe that this was a man’s job?

Many hands make light work: Brick assembly line during the VIP construction
During the two weeks spent in Katuuso Primary School, training participants learned practical skills to construct water technologies, and in the process began to transform into role models for the female students. Working alongside our young sisters and under the guidance of two African women facilitating the technology trainings, these students learned that women could be community change-makers and still be mothers and caretakers. As we stood in lines passing bricks to each other for construction, we began to hear the students say, I want to be an engineer when I grow up! 
Katuuso Primary School students present during the technology handover ceremony
Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest of places at the most unexpected times. The broader grassroots training crew may not have been masons, carpenters, technicians or trained engineers; but they were certainly community leaders making a difference at the school, and in the process shifting the view of women’s capabilities among the student body. When four young women representing the Katuuso student body spoke at the handing-over ceremony and shared their perceptions of the women they had seen in action, they uttered—Women can do anything. We are women, we can too!

Katuuso Priamary School students celebrate during the GWWI Technology Handover Ceremony!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Out of sight is not out of mind



As you know, the Africa Team just returned from Uganda, having worked alongside GWWI and our partners from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to address the myriad environmental challenges facing women and girls. We specifically had dialogues around the impact of climate change on women and girls and together strategized and developed skills on appropriate water, sanitation, and hygiene--WASH technologies.

We also made connections between climate change and how it severely impacts farming and food security. In addition to learning to construct solar cook kits that utilize the energy of the sun to cook and to pasteurize water, we were introduced to fireless cookers, another technology that enables women to cook without having to go collect firewood. Inevitably, issues around climate change and access to safe water link the rights of women to access and use land as farmers.


Right now in Uganda, there is concern around President Museveni's decision to "hand out part of Mabira rainforest to sugar manufacturer-SCOUL to grow sugarcane." According to this article, the impact of the President's decision will be three-fold: economic, political, and environmental. Already, "the pearl of Africa", whose potential to become an agricultural superpower depends on environmental balance, is being pounded by torrential rain that has caused severe flooding, death, and has destroyed livelihoods.

Even though the first phase of the 2011 East African Women and Water Training has ended and the Africa Team is back from Uganda, we continue to stand in solidarity with our Ugandan partners.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Meet the Summer Interns!

It's hard to believe it's already the end of August. What a productive summer at Women's Earth Alliance, and what a talented group of Summer Interns. They contributed so much to WEA, and we are grateful for all their hard work. Take a moment to meet them!

MARA GERSON - Summer Intern
1. Where are you from? I grew up in Berkeley, CA!

2. And what brings you back to Berkeley for the summer? I am a student at Vassar College in New York and came home this summer to work at WEA and enjoy the Bay Area.

3. What drew you to apply to be an intern at WEA? I’ve known about WEA for years through Melinda Kramer.  I’ve wanted to work at WEA since high school not only because I believe in the work they do and the concrete changes they have made in only five years, but also because of their unique approach both on a large scale and in the office on a daily basis. As an International Studies major with growing interests in women’s and environmental issues, WEA seemed like the perfect place to solidify my academic interests and to get excited about the kind of work I could do once I graduate. 

4. Sounds like the perfect fit! What exactly do you do at WEA? I am constantly working on various organizational and administrative projects, but one thing that I’ve been particularly excited about is brainstorming for WEA’s new School Outreach Program. Through local schools and teachers, we hope to teach Bay Area Youth about women’s and environmental issues and connect them directly to our global partners in Africa, India and North America. It has been so fun to get to work on a project in its preliminary stages, and I believe that the School Outreach Program has the potential to empower young people in creative and deep ways. I wish I could be here to see how it grows this year!

5. What do you like most about being an intern at WEA? Coming into a workplace where everyone is joyous, welcoming, honest, dedicated and reflective. WEA has not only taught me about the content of the work I want to do in the future, but also about how I want to go about doing that work on a daily basis. I love being in an office of inspiring women who support and push each other and also love to dance, sing and stretch while doing their work (all three of these things happened on the first day of my internship!).

6. Has anything surprised you about interning with WEA? I have been surprised about how their general approach to tackling big-scale, intimidating issues - like getting water to thousands of people - is so effective because they apply it on a small scale, as well. WEA is not just about female leaders in other countries working to change their communities. In my eyes, this aspect of WEA works well because the women in Berkeley and their surrounding community stay grounded in specific, positive values through which they view and change the world.

7. What do you do in the Bay Area when you aren’t busy at WEA? I love art, and this summer I also interned at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, worked at a local pottery studio called Brushstrokes, and took my first watercolor class at UC Berkeley. I also like to take hikes with my dog and family, explore San Francisco, and try to dance and do yoga as much as possible.

8. Any advice for future WEA interns? Ask lots of questions, get to know your co-workers, and come to work happy and ready to be even happier when you leave. I found that once I was receptive to the “WEA Way,” it changed how I live my life outside of WEA, as well. 

9. What is one thing your WEA coworkers don’t know about you? I want to start a craft collective when I get back to school this fall!


KAHEA PACHECO - Legal Research Intern for the North America Program
1. Where are you from? I’m from Honomu, HI – a little plantation village on the rainy, Hamakua coast of the Big Island.

2. What brings you to Berkeley for the summer? I’ve actually been living in Oakland for the past 5 years.  I moved to the Bay for law school in 2006, graduated with my JD in 2009, and have been living and working in the area ever since!

3. What drew you to apply to be an intern at WEA?  I found WEA through a posting on the University of San Francisco School of Law career opportunities board.  I remember thinking that WEA seemed like such a great organization; it would be an opportunity for me to do the type of research I loved with indigenous communities.  So I contacted Caitlin Sislin (North America Program Director) to ask more about the NAP – as I had specialized in Federal Indian law and had focused a lot on environmental law in law school – and here I am now!

4. And what is your role at WEA? I am the summer legal research intern for the North America Program.

5. What do you like most about your work with WEA?  I think there really is something to be said about doing what you love.  And I love doing research on environmental issues and working with (and for) indigenous communities.  Aside from that, however, I think what I love most about being an intern at WEA is the work environment that WEA fosters.  It’s such a positive, supportive place to be, where your health and happiness are just as important as the work you do.

6. Has anything surprised you about your internship?  I came from a work environment that was very different from WEA’s, so I think what pleasantly surprised me most was that supportive aspect I spoke of before.  I think I’m also just learning so much more about the environmental issues facing indigenous communities, things I didn’t think of before, and that’s been surprising and rewarding.

7. What do you do in the Bay Area when you aren’t in the office?  I like to have BBQ’s with friends, get out of the city into wide open spaces, take day trips to places I’ve never been before, go on hikes with my dog…

8. Any advice for future WEA interns?  Really take advantage of this opportunity to work with amazing women, in an amazing office, doing really meaningful work.  Try to be a sponge – just take in as much as you can at all times, because every second is a chance to learn more about the issues WEA works on, your coworkers, or the kind of career that celebrates the work/life balance.

9. What is one thing your WEA coworkers don’t know about you?  I have a crazy addiction to Diet Coke that I’ve been trying to kick for months now.  Some months are better than others. 


SOPHIE FRIED - North America Program Intern

1. Where are you from? Washington DC.

2. How did you end up over here on the best coast? I graduated from Pitzer College in May 2010, and moved up to San Francisco shortly thereafter. I have been working at WEA since last November. I'm currently studying for the LSAT,and hope to be going to law school or continuing to work on issues of environmental justice in the next couple of years.

3. Sounds like you have it all planned out! What drew you to apply to be an intern in the first place? I heard about WEA through a former professor. My values align so closely with WEA's mission and development model that I knew I had to be involved in this work in any capacity.

4. What is your role at WEA? I am a Jane of all Trades! I did social media for a while--managing our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and now I support our North America program director, Caitlin Sislin, in her work on the upcoming Advocacy Training this November.

5. What is your favorite thing about being an intern at WEA? I feel like I am doing good work. This is the way development should be done--WEA takes a holistic approach and invests not only in projects, but in the lives of women. We are continuously building a web of powerful relationships the world over in an effort to uplift women and in turn, protect the earth. So, yea, I guess you could say I enjoy being a part of that ;)

6. Has anything surprised you about your internship? I could not have anticipated how I would grow to love the people I work with at WEA. It is not fair to call them "co-workers" They are friends, allies, mentors, and sisters. I am constantly inspired by the spirits of my sisters. 

7. That is amazing. So when you aren’t in the office, what do you do with your spare time? The Bay Area has a rich and vibrant culture which I try to enjoy as much as I can. I attend lots of art walks, festivals, concerts and the like. I also love being outdoors, and I live right next to Tilden Park, so I feel very blessed!

8. Advice for future WEA interns? You should feel encouraged to bring your unique gifts to WEA's work. Share your ideas and voice your opinions, you will be heard!

9. What is one thing your WEA coworkers don’t know about you? I share so much with them! But I bet they don't know that I'm terrified of clowns. Really, really not amused by them at all.


KAITLIN SWARTS - Research and Social Media Intern
1. Where are you from? Austin, Texas.

2. How did you make it all the way to Berkeley for the summer? I graduated from Pomona College in southern California two years ago.  A lot of Pomona alumni end up in the Bay Area, so it was only natural for me to migrate back to the west coast eventually. 

3. How did you hear about WEA? I was living in Peru and knew I wanted to move to the Bay Area when I got back to the states.  While searching for sustainable development organizations, I came across WEA.  I couldn’t believe how my beliefs were completely aligned with WEA’s mission and methodology.  The more I read about WEA, the more I knew I wanted to work for an organization that goes about sustainable development in the right way: by listening to communities and empowering local women leaders.  Even though I was still going to be in Peru for another several months, I felt immediately compelled to write WEA a love letter.  

4. And what do you do at WEA? I am the Research and Social Media Intern, but as the other interns have expressed, I feel very lucky that I get to touch projects in lots of different areas.  Every day is different.  It ranges from sending out weekly news briefs to our three programs, to doing preliminary research for future projects, to managing the WEA blog and working on WEA’s social media outreach.  

5. What is your favorite thing about being a WEA intern? I love getting to come to work and feel good about the work I am doing—I leave the office in an even better mood than I come in with!  As an intern, you tend to get handed a random assortment of tasks, but at WEA, I have never felt disconnected from our mission.  Every day, I know that the work I am doing is in some way helping to empower women to unlock their own solutions to food, land, and water issues around the world.  What could be better than that? 

6. Has anything surprised you about your internship or WEA in general? Before WEA, I worked for a year in the corporate world, so where do I even start? Hugs on my first day of work, coworkers asking me how my weekend was and genuinely being interested in my answer, it being ok to take off my shoes in the office, 2pm stretch breaks, getting to interact with the Co-Directors on a daily basis…the list goes on. 

7. When you aren’t at WEA, where can we find you? I am new to the Bay Area, so I am still busy exploring my new home. The Bay is truly a hub of dynamic people and places—I am constantly amazed by what this area has to offer. So if you are looking for me, I’m probably either trying to figure out MUNI in the city or hiking in the East Bay. I am always open to suggestions for new things to try! Oh, and I attempt to maintain my soccer skills by playing in an adult league.  

8. Do you have any advice for future WEA interns? Rather than trying to formulate expectations for what your internship will be, remain open to supporting the WEA team on a wide range of projects. You will be surprised by what you will learn.  Before my internship, I had never even been on Twitter. Now I spend my free time reading up on social media strategy and looking for interesting things to retweet.

9. What is one thing your WEA coworkers don’t know about you? I've sang and played piano my whole life, so I was so excited to learn on my first day that my new coworkers like to celebrate and sing at events, at work—really, any time! I am very shy at first, but hopefully one day I will be able to bust out into song with everyone! 


CODY DUNITZ - General Intern
1. Where are you from? Santa Monica, California.

2. What brings you to Berkeley for the summer? I’m a third year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, and have been working and taking classes over the summer.

3. What drew you to apply to be an intern at WEA? I heard about WEA from Ariana Katovich, one of the directors at Earth Island.  I took a tour of the Brower Center with her, and when I saw WEA and heard about the awesome things the organization was doing and what it stood for, I knew right away I wanted to get involved somehow!

4. And what exactly do you do as an intern? I do social media, Salesforce (donor tracking), school outreach, and any other projects or tasks the WEA team needs help with.

5. What is your favorite thing about interning at WEA? I have learned so much over the course of the last few months working at WEA, it’s hard to narrow it down.  One thing I have really enjoyed is that I have felt such an awesome sense of community and love both in the office and in every project that WEA takes on outside the office.  I have also enjoyed the various projects I've done, and getting to collaborate with others on some of them.

6. Has anything surprised you about WEA? The first thing that comes to mind is how much emphasis WEA places on personal relationship and individual care--in every aspect that I've experienced while working here, whether it's with fellow WEA team members or anyone outside the office, the WEA team demonstrates diligence and care.  This is not surprising given how WEA is as an organization, but rather because I've never worked with an organization that placed such importance on this aspect before.

7. What do you do in the Bay Area when you aren’t interning? Spend time with friends and family, hike and spend time outdoors, play guitar and sing, read, check out fun restaurants and cook.

8. Any advice for future WEA interns? Ask for support when you need it (because you will get it!) but don’t be afraid to take on challenges head first and make projects your own. Take time to appreciate the great, personal work environment WEA has created.  One thing that was discussed in the 2011 GWWI Uganda pre-departure meeting that really stuck with me was how important it is to work from the heart; service work is only meaningful if you are doing it with honest and loving intentions, and I think what’s so special about the way WEA works.

9. What is one thing your WEA coworkers don’t know about you? I’m a total geography nerd.  


SUSAN MA - Operations Intern, North America Program Intern

1. Where are you from? Los Angeles, CA.

2. What brings you up north? I live and go to school in Oakland, so Berkeley is not too far away.

3. How did you hear about WEA? I heard about WEA through Idealist.org. I looked at their intern openings, red their "about" section, and thought to myself, "who wouldn't want to work with strong, empowered women that are trying to create change in the world?"

4. Agreed. And what do you do at WEA? I mainly work with WEA's finances, but I also support the North America Program.

5. What do you like most about interning at WEA? The work and the environment.

6. Has anything surprised you about your internship or WEA in general? Every time I attend a WEA event or meet a WEA supporter, I get surprised in a good way.

7. What do you do in the Bay Area when you aren't interning? Study...or craft or play a sport, but mostly study.

8. Any advice for future WEA interns? Enjoy the ride, and make sure you really get to know the people around you! They're pretty amazing.

9. What is one thing your WEA coworkers don't know about you? I don't have an answer to that question.


*Emily Robbins, not pictured here, was our Media Production Intern. You can view some of her beautiful work here