Wednesday, February 8, 2012

GWWI Women, Water on Wednesdays: Transforming Lives and Providing Clean Water in a Women’s Prison in Kenya!

Special Report from the Field with Catherine Wanjohi

Susan (left) and Catherine (right) during the 2011 GWWI East African Women and Water Training in Uganda
Catherine Wanjohi and Susan Njeri Karaja have so many reasons to be proud! They are perhaps one of the most inspiring teams who have come through the Global Women’s Water Initiative Training Program. When they told their stories at the East Africa Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda, there was not a dry eye in the house. Catherine and Susan, from Life Bloom Services in Naivasha, Kenya offer counseling, leadership development , vocational opportunities and other livelihood alternatives for commercial sex workers and defiled and abused girls other livelihood alternatives and turn their lives around. Recently, Life Bloom members not only brought clean water and hygiene education to a women’s prison in Kenya, but the project also gave them an incredible sense of personal pride that in transforming their own lives, their new work has transformed others’ lives as well.

Susan presenting during the Uganda Training
Catherine and Susan came to GWWI through Global Fund For Women and learned how to build the Biosand Filter, a modified slow sand water filter made out of local materials that filters contaminated water. They knew that participating in the training would help their program three-fold. First, they could add WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) technologies to their existing vocational training roster. Second, they could provide health and hygiene education to their members and the community at large. And third, they could sell the Biosand filter as an additional product through their micro-business which also includes handmade accessories like scarves, greeting cards and bags. Life Bloom even made our personalized GWWI 2011 Training bags!

Catherine and Susan lead their own training back in Naivasha, Kenya at a local women's prison

Executive Director, Catherine Wanjohi reports from Life Bloom’s Clean Water Project at a Kenyan women’s prison--

Testing the newly constructed BSF
Life Bloom conducted a 6-day WASH (water, saniation and hygiene) training at a local women’s prison in Kenya. It was easier working with Prisons because of their established protocols and systems and the prison administration was able to mobilize resources from their kitty. The training was attended by 18 prison warders both male and female and 18 female inmates. During the training we covered the following topics; Water testing technology using the Portable Micro-biology Lab, construction of 3 Bio-sand water filters  (all painted in the official Kenyan Prisons colors as is in the photos), and solar cooking. The participants played an active role during the training since they were eager to learn this new technology. 

Female prison guard, smiling about the new BSF installed!
We started by installing the already constructed filters [during the training we constructed 2 and when we left the prisons warders and the inmates constructed 1 giving a total of 3 filters]. Graduation day was very colorful and all the participants were very happy. The inmates were happy to receive their certificates and some said it was their first time to hold a certificate in their hands and some even said they didn’t have an idea of what a certificate looked like and the women said it was a great moment of their lives. One woman said she was cursing why she was put in prison but when she received her certificate she said now she understood why GOD had to let her go to prison and she said from that day on she will see her being in prison not a punishment but for a reason and purpose. During this graduation day we had many visitors who came to witness this great day some of our visitors were from the Ministry of Information, media houses in Kenya and some from other partnering organizations. The graduation ceremony was aired on our local television news and was covered by the Standard Newspaper. This information was taken well by the local community and we received many phone calls from all those who saw and read about the WASH technology.
Female prisoners celebrating the completion of the BSFs

Life Bloom continues to inspire us as they build a “One Stop Vocational and Leadership Training School for Women and Girls in Naivasha Kenya”. They plan to integrate WASH Education and Technologies as one of the featured vocational trainings and GWWI is dedicated to helping support the realization of that dream.
Catherine Wanjohi, Executive Director of Lifebloom Services International!
Catherine is also a published author! Her book “A Walk at Midnight” tells the story of some of the women who of Life Bloom and their incredible experiences and transformations.

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