Wednesday, May 30, 2012

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Team from Uganda Preparing for a Government Water Contract!

We’re excited to share that Florence and Eunice of Orphans and Widows Association of Development (OWAD) and 2011 GWWI graduates have been offered a government contract to build rainwater harvesting systems and tanks for schools all around the District of Amuria! We at the Global Women’s Water Initiative are extremely proud since one of our primary goals is to support the graduates to be able to earn income for WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) services they can offer their community. They applied to the GWWI Women and Water Training last summer, because they knew that securing water and sanitation would greatly benefit their members as well as their communities. 

OWAD promotes rural women’s empowerment, alleviates poverty, and eliminates homelessness among widows. With a membership of 2,000, OWAD provides housing for rural women and young mothers among other legal services. After attending the GWWI training, they were able to add water and sanitation solutions to their roster of services for widows and orphans and the community at large.

When Florence and Eunice returned home from the GWWI training they took quick action. They showed 20 women’s groups how to clean water and cook with the sun using the Solar CooKit, a solar oven made from recycled cardboard boxes and reflective material.

The women also learned to test their water using the Portable Microbiology Lab, some discovering that 4 out of their 6 water sources they were using were contaminated. People were so shocked with the results and took immediate action. Florence and Eunice were able to support the widows by helping them raise money in the local community to protect one of their springs from further contamination.

But the most exciting news is that some of the women learned to build rainwater harvesting systems and have since built 3 tanks benefiting the Amuria primary school. Women learned to make interlocking bricks using the ISSB machine and then used the bricks to build the tank. Even young girls at the Amuria school helped make the bricks!

ISSB or Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks are bricks made out of clay earth, sand and a little cement and water. They create a much more stable foundation since the blocks are interlocking and there is a major cost savings because it uses less cement for bonding, is more durable and requires less repair and the machine can produce hundreds of bricks per day requiring no electricity – just sheer muscle power.

OWAD intends to buy a machine so they can double their impact - they would not only build more tanks in their communities, but also construct traditional roundhouses for their beneficiaries – the widows and orphans. They are currently seeking funding to buy the $2,000 machine so they can expand their reach providing housing and clean water to the widows and orphans of Amuria District!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lessons from an Indigenous Woman's Leadership

Blog entry by Rucha Chitnis, India Director of Women’s Earth Alliance
Twitter: @ruchachitnis

I had the great honor and joy to speak with Dolores Sales at the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples conference in San Francisco this month.  Dolores is an Indigenous Maya Mam woman from Guatemala, who is one of the leaders of National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos (CONIC).

CONIC promotes the livelihoods and community-led development efforts of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala through a grassroots movement that is also reclaiming their rights to land and other natural resources.  Dolores is also an active member of La Via Campesina (LVC), an international movement of peasant organizations, agricultural workers, fisher folks, pastoralists, rural women and Indigenous communities, who espouse food sovereignty as a principle to transform economic power and promote the rights and dignity of small producers.

Dolores is a part of the women’s leadership commission of LVC that is putting the agenda of gender equality and equity in the center of this vital movement, as well as eliminating all forms of violence against women.  One of the rallying calls of LVC is the unequivocal belief that small farmers can cool the Earth through the promotion of agroecology.

Dolores is a daughter of farmers, who worked the land as a young girl.  She is a part of a larger struggle that is demanding the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.  “Our people want land reforms and territorial defense,” she says.  Indigenous women are an integral part of this struggle and work directly with their communities to articulate their demands.  “People in my community have little land to cultivate and have to work on large farms and plantations to survive.”

She shares that one of the key demands of women in her community is to have land titles in their names.  Another major effort is to promote Indigenous women’s integrated view of development that is based on their cosmology and spiritual beliefs with a deep reverence for “Mother Earth.”  She passionately articulates that women’s critical contributions as food producers should be recognized in Indigenous communities and beyond.

I asked her to share her reflections on her personal leadership journey. “Poverty has educated me,” she says. “I learned to listen to our elders, and I have learned much by the collective mobilization of my community that is demanding its rights from the state.”   Dolores notes that donors can stand in solidarity with the efforts of Indigenous women by recognizing their role as key defenders of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the rights of Mother Earth.  Dolores also suggests that donors should support spaces for fair trade, as the production of small farmers “has no value under free trade.”

Her final words of wisdom remind us of our “shared responsibility” to protect and defend our planet in peril.  Thanks to the leadership of women, like Dolores, donors are slowly recognizing Indigenous women’s agency as grassroots changemakers impacting both—local and policy level shifts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: GWWI Graduate Selected for Board of Directors for Kenyan Water Company!

Catherine Wanjohi is a 2011 Graduate of the Global Women's Water Initiative Training Program. Catherine is the Executive Director of Life Bloom, an organization in Naivasha, Kenya that empowers ex-commercial sex workers with vocational skills and education to uplift them into a life of dignity through entrepreneurship. Not only is Life Bloom building a vocational school, she is also studying to get her PhD! Catherine recently sent this letter to GWWI about her recent appointment as a Board Member for the Water Company as a result of her participation in the GWWI Training Program.

Dear sisters,

I hope you are all doing well. I would love to share one stride that has happened in the last couple of weeks.

Some friends of our organization (Life Bloom) who knew about our work we had begun doing with women with our new WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) project called me a few weeks ago to tell me that there was an advertisement in the national newspapers, for positions of Board of Directors of the Water Company. The Water Company regulates and determines the direction water services implemented our district. My friends thought that I would be able to best represent the local poor woman, who takes contaminated water (which I can say that with authority since we have conducted numerous water tests) and spends half the day sourcing from the donkey vendors, suggested I apply. I am aware that most of Naivasha community has respect for me and Life Bloom for being able to penetrate the community of sex workers which almost everyone has kept at bay.

Clad with my testimonials (and the WASH training certificate), I did apply and was invited for a very competitive interview in April. Asked by the panel why I was interested in such a large volunteer position, I said that I now knew the kind of water our women used because I was able to test the water and am now passionate to make water not only more available, but expand ways of cleaning water at the household level using the Biosand Filter I learned at the GWWI Training. I even invited them to a water test at the office with my Portable Microbiology Lab!

Just last week, I got my letter of appointment to this position--------I am one among other 2 women in a board of 5 persons!

I wish to really thank you all at GWWI and do renew my commitment here and now..." to build healthy families through provision of healthy water". I look forward to a time when the poor households of Naivasha and beyond will boast of great health. My inspiring challenge at this moment: To influence the change of policies that have seen these households without water for all these decades. And isn't it just a great honor to do that from the big board meetings...and use Life Bloom and other community based organizations to implement these policies?

Blessings for all you have been to me and the African woman/household.


Huge congratulations and continued support for Catherine for this incredible opportunity to make waves of change in her community and beyond.

Friday, May 18, 2012

WEA selected by Cooper design firm for UX Bootcamp

This summer, WEA has been selected by Cooper, a San Francisco-based design and strategy firm to be the focus of their four day "UX Bootcamp". The UX Bootcamp is part intensive design course, part design competition. Designers, engineers, and product managers will join forces to learn design methods, while envisioning new concepts for WEA's website (and even what a mobile app could look like!). We're excited to see what they come up with.  At the end of the competition, Cooper U educators and a WEA representative will review and judge the final idea concepts presented by each team, and Cooper will donate $1,000 to WEA on behalf of the winners. Thank you Cooper!

UX Bootcamp: July 30-Aug 2, San Francisco.  Interested designers can learn more on Cooper's site

Interested designers can learn more on Cooper's site here

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Solar CooKit - Using the Sun to Clean Water

One of the cheapest and greenest ways to clean water is to harness the heat of the sun! As Mama Solar, GWWI Solar CooKit Trainer says, 'the sun is free and we here in Africa have plenty of it!'   The sun's heat is used to pasteurize water which has the same effects as boiling, but is much cheaper and is less damaging to the environment. Boiling is one of the easiest and most widely practiced water treatments promoted around the globe, but is prohibitive in developing countries for several reasons. 1) fuel or coal is costly for families making less than a $1 a day 2) wood collection contributes to deforestation 3) burning fuel, coal or wood creates air pollution.

Carrying Wood

The process of boiling requires the water to heat to 100 Celsius. Once it reaches this high temperature, it kills disease-causing germs. Pasteurization, however, requires the water only to be heated to 60 Celsius, but at a longer sustained heat. This can be achieved by putting contaminated clear water in a covered black pot (which can be painted with simple chalkboard paint) to attract heat, enclosed in a large clear plastic bag to contain the heat, and placed inside a Solar CooKit to intensify the heat.

Solar CooKit with bag

The Global Women's Water Initiative introduces the Solar CooKit as one of the core technologies women learn at our Women and Water Trainings. On Day 1, women make their own Solar CooKit! Made simply with recycled cardboard boxes, reflective material (aluminum foil, the inside of juice boxes etc), cloth for lining and reinforcing the edges, and glue. In just a few short hours the women have their first technology completed and ready to use!

The finished Solar CooKits!

During the rest of the Training week, they set the CooKits up in the morning if it's a sunny day to clean their water, share recipes and cook delicious food. They leave them to sit in the sun while they spend the rest of the day in training sessions and building other technologies. When they return after a few to several hours (depending on the strength of the sun that day) their water is clean and their food is cooked!  

Food made with the CooKits

There are so many reasons to love the Solar CooKits. All the materials to make the CooKit are available locally.  Women have less dependence on coal and fuel and reduction in deforestation. Once they have the technology, cooking is free – on sunny days of course! And most important, women are freed up to do other things while they are cooking and cleaning their water. WIN for the women, WIN for the environment, WIN for family health!

You can make one too! Download the instructions and recipes here from the Solar Cookers International website. 
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Land is Life

By Nancy Djembe | Intern, Sub-Saharan Africa Program | Women's Earth Alliance

Last Thursday, May 3rd, I came home so angry and frustrated about what I had just learned from Anuradha Mittal's lecture on land grabs in Africa. Anuradha is the founder and director of the Oakland Institute, a think-tank that works to "increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic and environmental issues in both national and international forums."

I was angry because thousands of Africans are being displaced as western corporations and institutions continue to benefit from unfair land deals. For example, AgroSol, a US based corporation has access to thousands of hectares of land in Tanzania at the expense of local communities for whom land is a source of livelihood. My anger also stems from the fact that African governments fail to uphold the interests of its own people, especially women, who are disproportionately impacted by these land-grabs.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women make up 70% of smallholder farmers, producing about 80% of food. The direct connection of women to land as natural resource managers undermines their ability to sustain their livelihoods. 

Land-grabs in Africa is a not a new issue. There are several parallels between the land grabs happening today and the scramble and partition of Africa in the 19th century. What is more disturbing is that these land-grabs are being framed as bringing economic growth to the continent, while in reality, land grabs are displacing people, destroying livelihoods and communities, undermining local economies and self-reliance, and fueling foreign dependency. 

Several organizations in Africa and abroad, such as Third World Network (Ghana) and the Oakland Institute, Priority Africa Network are engaged in research and advocacy initiatives to raise awareness on this alarming trend. To effectively address land-grabs, it will require a critical mass of voices to speak out; good governance with accountability and transparency; visionary leadership; advocacy and education. As Anuradha Mittal shared in her lecture, "land is life, and not a luxury or a choice." As such, it is critical to ensure that all people can have access to and enjoy their rights to land. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Congratulations to GWWI Trainer Godliver Businge Graduating #1 in Her Class!

Godliver lays foundation for the toilet slab

A huge congratulations goes out to Global Women's Water Initiative (GWWI) Trainer Godliver Businge who recently graduated #1 in her class at St Joseph's Technical Institute in Uganda – and incidentally, the ONLY WOMAN! Not only did Godliver receive top marks in Civil Engineering, on April 28, 2012, she gave the commencement speech attended by the Minister of Education, who soon after invited her to his office and offered her a job. She graciously declined because she has her sights on getting her degree and ultimately her PhD in Civil Engineering. 

Godliver the Engineer
We met Godliver when she was attending the Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme where she was working towards a Certificate in Bricklaying and Concrete Practice. URDT trains people who live on less than $1 per day to take a visionary, entrepreneurial approach to developing their own lives, families and communities.  We hired her to train GWWI participants to build Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) toilets to meet the sanitation needs of their communities. Decked from head to toe in her construction coveralls and protective helmet, Godliver was an inspiration to the GWWI participants, as well as the students at the school where the VIP was built during our Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda in July 2011. The participants were very impressed by her meticulous and detailed instruction and her capacity to simplify the construction since many of the women had never picked up a shovel in their lives. One female student at the school declared "When I grow up, I want to be an engineer"!

Godliver's mission is to engage more Ugandan women to pursue engineering and become professionals. She had a local radio show called "Ladies Night" and went into the villages to recruit more girls. Through her efforts, URDT saw a three-fold increase in enrollment to the URDT Girls School.  

After graduation, Godliver was contracted to help design and construct  small scale hydro-electric schemes in Kasese and Fort Portal. They are working towards manufacturing the turbine locally to ensure that it can be maintained and repaired by local community members.
Godliver at her Graduation
At the young age of 25, Godliver is a role model for all of us. A true Water Champion, Godliver is determined to pave the way for women to challenge gender stereotypes, professionalize their services and take the lead in an issue that affects them deeply – water and sanitation.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Climate Change Resilience Begins With Women

Blog post by Rucha Chitnis, WEA's South Asia Program Director
Twitter: @ruchachitnis

Women farmers, like Manju, play a crucial role in building the resilience
of their communities in the face of climate change

Manju Devi is a farmer, a single mother of three and a dedicated field worker with a local grassroots organization called Nav Jagriti in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. Manju is on a mission to build the self-reliance of women in her community who are affected by poverty, food insecurity and climate change. Women farmers in her community are particularly affected by floods and prolonged waterlogging issues.

Manju was one of the participants of the Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training program that was designed and coordinated by Women’s Earth Alliance’s partner, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), a grassroots organization working with small and landless women farmers through a people-centered approach focusing on their participation and empowerment for sustainable development. GEAG's efforts also target poverty and hunger reduction by connecting women farmers with sustainable agricultural training, advocacy and networking support.

The goal of this training was to facilitate a regional exchange between women farmers and rural NGO workers from four flood-affected states to share their personal experiences with climate change and its impact on their health, livelihoods and food security. The training equipped women with information about sustainable agricultural practices, such as mixed farming--growing diverse food crops on small farms and making natural pesticides and fertilizers using farm inputs.  Participants also learned about local and regional campaigns to advance women’s rights as farmers. Manju was particularly inspired meeting women from a community in Sahranpur, who were successful in winning back their forest rights access from a corrupt contractor who had exploited them for years. The women shared with, much pride, how they finally won their rights through a long sustained joint solidarity struggle.

Manju set up an organic kitchen garden as a
demonstration site for other women farmers

Manju was clearly inspired and invigorated by the training, and she returned to her community with a plan to make a difference. First, she set up her own organic kitchen garden as a demonstration site to show women farmers how they could grow a variety of vegetables right at home even if their farms were flooded. She went on to organize 11 women’s groups, training 144 farmers on seed-saving practices and growing a variety of vegetables and grains using mixed farming techniques. Finally, she educated women on their rights as farmers and shared information on beneficial government programs that women could access to improve their economic and food security. 

"My vision is that women in my community stand on their own feet and embrace organic farming practices.  I am leading by example to show how this can be achieved," she proudly beamed. Women farmers, like Manju, clearly demonstrate how they play a crucial role in building the leadership capacities of other vulnerable women in their communities who are acutely affected by climate challenges, such as floods and droughts.  As cultural and natural resource stewards of their communities, they are positioned to make a difference by using their traditional ecological knowledge systems of farming, seed saving of robust indigenous crops like millets, which require little to no water for irrigation, and by engaging actively in the political and civic affairs of their communities.

Farmers like Manju recognize that one sure way of increasing the resilience of rural communities in the face of climate change is to end the inequalities and discrimination that rural women face so that they can access critical information, useful agriculture extension training services and increase their participation in disaster management programs.  

This farmer started her own organic kitchen
garden after being trained by Manju

Another woman farmer has a steady supply of vegetables
after starting an organic kitchen garden at home

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Transforming Economic Power, Transforming Ourselves

Blog entry by Rucha Chitnis, India Director of Women’s Earth Alliance
Twitter: @ruchachitnis

I had the honor of attending the 12th AWID Forum held in Istanbul last month. This was an astonishing convergence of nearly 2,500 grassroots activists, scholars, feminist economists, donors, artists and writers. We gathered to learn and share how global economic forces are impacting women’s human rights and our planet.  The Forum--Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice was a gathering to reimagine and reshape an unequal global economic paradigm that has further marginalized those who are already acutely affected by injustices and poverty -- women of color, indigenous women and those impacted by militarism.

It is impossible to summarize the sophisticated level of analysis or share the diversity and vitality of the myriad plenaries, breakout sessions, evening events and solidarity roundtables that went unabated for four days. But here are a few personal learnings, takeaways and “Aha” moments that I wanted to share with you.

  • "Another US is necessary for another world to be possible": Maria Poblet, Executive Director of Causa Justa-Just Cause, poetically emphasized that those of us who live in the “belly of the beast” have a responsibility to build solidarity and joint struggle with international movements.  Maria also underscored the need to expand and deepen the political vision of the Occupy movement, which is “largely white men” to include minorities and people of color to build a grassroots, multi-racial and generational movement that asserts a shared agenda for economic justice.
  • "The comfort zone is the zone of prejudice": Boaventura de Sousa Santos, internationally renowned scholar and one of the leading organizers of the World Social Forum, shared the need for the convergence of movements and elimination of stereotypes and prejudices. He also called for increased inter-cultural exchanges to share different concepts and ideas of equality. He observed that the feminist movement was best in combining urgency with a call for broader “civilizational change.”
  • Embrace a feminist perspective to Economics: Rebecca Grynspan, working with UNDP Costa Rica, emphasized that we need to promote feminist economics and put issues of equity and equality in the center of the agenda and discourse. It was powerful to hear her emphasize that economic analysis needs to integrate paid and unpaid work of women into the indicators and that an inter-disciplinary approach is crucial to have a more gendered analysis of economics.  Economists also need to begin to take stock of natural ecosystems, the extraction of natural resources and the externalization of costs on the environment and communities by corporations through degradation and pollution. We need to bring women’s economic rights into the larger human rights discourse.
  • Think Eco-systemic not individualistic Approach:  Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a renowned indigenous activist from the Philippines, shared that the long struggles of indigenous women and the current ecological, economic and cultural crises, are an outcome of a capitalist, patriarchal system that has been reinforced for hundreds of years.  She reminded us that indigenous women are living in some of the last intact ecological areas, a sign that they embrace values of reciprocity, solidarity and live in harmony with Nature.  A reminder that indigenous peoples have their own indicators of well-being beyond mainstream monetary indicators and that cross-cultural exchanges could foster learning from indigenous peoples cultural and spiritual practices. 
FORUM ended with a solidarity march
by participants from around the world
  • Embrace diversity and complexities: Many Forum participants urged the need to embrace the complexities and the diversity of feminist movements. We need to look at the intersections of race, class, age, religion, and sexualities and to engage in more inter-cultural dialogues and exchanges. This should allow us to challenge our own perspectives and have a more thoughtful and unified analysis of the issues facing women.
  • "Disease of “projectitis” affects long-term impact of our work": Joanna Kerr of Action Aid reminded us that there is no magic bullet for development, and this was powerfully highlighted by one of my favorite breakout sessions, Can Monitoring and Evaluation be Feminist?. The panel was moderated by feminist activist and scholar, Srilatha Batliwala. Participants candidly shared their challenges in using complex and stringent monitoring and evaluation (M&E) strategies, which reduced and simplified "change" into quantifiable metrics.  The shared learning from this session was that donors and funders need to create a safe space for evaluations, where women’s groups have a sense of personal ownership to advance their programmatic and strategic goals, rather than experience evaluations like a performance review.
  • Climate change resiliency begins with women: At a session where Women’s Earth Alliance partnered with our sister-organization, IDEX, Luciana Baustista Pedro, an indigenous woman from Mexico, who founded a group called Nepi Behna (Women of Dignity), shared how women are building their resilience in face of environmental and climate challenges by installing rainwater harvesting tanks, using wood-saving stoves and setting up women’s cooperatives through a Fair Trade Artisanship Program. Other Forum sessions also shared examples of how rural women are leading the way for food sovereignty by reviving traditional organic farming and seed saving practices, by asserting their rights as farmers and by playing a key role in large peasant social movements like the Via Campesina. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Meet Mama Africa, Anna Anatoli, GWWI 2008 Graduate and 2011 Trainer in Training

GWWI is proud to share this interview of Anna Anatoli, or as she was so aptly named, ‘Mama Africa’.  That’s a big name to live up to, but Anna does a great job filling the bill!  Anna came to the Global Women’s Water Initiative in 2008 to our inaugural Women and Water Training in Kenya. The moment she stepped onto the grounds of the Green Belt Training center in Nairobi, we knew we were in the presence of a powerful leader with deep passion and unwavering persistence.Because of her incredible drive and immense effort to share all the knowledge to her community in Arusha, she was invited to participate in the GWWI Trainers Training program in Uganda in 2011.The development of the GWWI Trainer’s Training Program was inspired by and designed for leaders like Anna to help deepen and expand her knowledge in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) solutions.  Anna brought two young women from the Tanzania Girl Guides (the international version of Girl Scouts) to ensure that this knowledge is instilled in the younger generation.

Anna is the founder and Chairperson of ANEPO (Attraction of Natural Environment, we Protect and Organize) from Arusha, Tanzania. Anna works at the forefront of addressing environmental issues as a means to sustain water issues in her community. In a community that faces drought and lack of safe and available drinking water, Anna provides education and training through ANEPO. She trains women on healthy eating and shares all the different techniques and technologies she learned at the GWWI trainings - solar cooking methods, purifying water using the WAPI, (Water Pasteurization Indicator), construction of Biosand Filters and toilets. She also teaches women to harvest rainwater and to use drip methods to grow trees and organic vegetables. She is also the Regional Secretary of the Tanzania Girl Guides Association, an organization that trains girls to become strong women and good citizens.

Africa’s future is in good hands with water champions like Mama Africa taking the lead in building local water and sanitation programs!

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