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Ripples from West Africa, a partner update from Ghana

Project: West African Women Providing Safe Water and Sanitation

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In 2010, Monica Ayomah was one of the eight local women trainers in the West African Women and Water Trainings in Ghana. We were thrilled to hear from Monica this month and learn how her leadership has unfolded over the years. Today she is a WASH trainer in Ghana, touching the lives of countless more women and spreading critical water and sanitation technologies to many.

Here’s a short clip of Monica during the training, reflecting on her role as a woman trainer and how important representation is for women in technology.

 

“They were thinking it was only men who can do construction, it was only men who can work on water for women to use.” 

The West African Women and Water Training, hosted by the Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) — an initiative co-founded by WEA, A Single Drop, and Crabgrass — supported women to become entrepreneurial leaders in the WASH sector through workshops on capacity building, business development, and technical training in a range of WASH development projects. The training program also served as a platform from which women trainers could expand their training reach and capacity.

Monica trained the 15 teams on how to set up rainwater harvesting systems. Taking on that kind of leadership role, Monica said, she saw concrete ways her work could have lasting and far-reaching positive impact for other women and their communities.

“It wasn’t until I participated in a workshop,” she said, “that I realized I was empowered as a woman to empower other women to be leaders.” She explained that participating in the trainings connected her with a network of grassroots change-makers. This network helped her see how WASH intervention had the potential to empower more and more women. She saw how she could positively impact communities by providing education around safe water practices.

Monica came away from the 2010 Women and Water Trainings emboldened to carry her knowledge forward and help others gain skills, tools and confidence to realize those goals.

So, Monica started her own civil engineering firm!

Shifting professionally from masonry in private homes, Monica started a civil engineering firm and named it Won-Nyeya, meaning “God has seen” in the Builsa language. The firm works with WaterAid Ghana as a WASH construction partner and has five employees: a project officer, monitoring and evaluation officer, engineer, community development educator and a secretary. In the last few years Won-Nyeya has worked in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Volta regions of Ghana to implement Water Sanitation and Hygiene services to underserved communities, schools and clinics.

Monica Ayomah started a civil engineering firm, Won-Nyeya. The firm specializes in WASH construction and always involves the women of the beneficiary communities in order to ensure their lasting efficacy and because women get things done!
Women are mobilizing local materials for the construction of water points. They also take part in the construction process so that in the future, they can also repair the water points should it develop some problems.
Won-Nyeya building an institutional latrine for a community in what Monica described as one of the poorest districts in Ghana.

Sometimes, Won-Nyeya’s work involves constructing or improving infrastructure like wells, rain harvesting systems and latrines. The firm may also be called upon to train Sanitation Management Teams or conduct WASH trainings at schools and health clubs.

Monica credits the 2010 Women and Water Training for helping her see ways to build Won-Nyeya as a firm with an effective engagement model that puts women at the center of their own community’s progress. 

“Before implementing any WASH project we ensure that women are actively involved at the awareness creation and community level planning,” Monica explains, describing strategies Won-Nyeya uses that are clear and concrete while staying flexible enough to use effectively in various communities with different needs. In fact, water and sanitation management teams that are formed have at least three women occupying executive positions, training women as pump mechanics so that they are “actively involved in community decision making.” 

A training of water and sanitation management teams to ensure sustainability of their water resources. Women are in the picture are elected as executives by the community to manage the water points.

And she is just getting started! In the future Monica hopes to develop construction and engineering programs specifically for women and girls in technical and vocational schools, as well as continue to increase access to potable water and sanitation services in underserved communities.

Women become Entrepreneurs in Ghana through Water

Project: West African Women Providing Safe Water and Sanitation

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Source: Huffington Post
Source: Huffington Post

When the nonprofit Saha Global was started by an MIT grad student in 2008, the initial goal was to implement a water business run by women in Kasaligu, northern Ghana. It started with teaching one women, Fati, how to treat contaminated water from her village’s source using locally available materials that were simple to construct. Thus, Fati gained a business in selling the clean water, and her village of 1,000 people gained clean water. Now, seven years later, 178 women in northern Ghana have gained jobs, and their children and communities have become empowered through the work the women do. Although the women don’t make much money from their businesses, it is not insignificant, and in turn they invest it in their children, education and their communities.

“Kids used to complain of stomach pains in the mornings and many people used to have runny stomachs. But after the water treatment center was opened, all those complaints have stopped. I am happy to make sales and thankful for the opportunity given me”.
Fati

You can read the full article, and meet some of the other entrepreneurs, here.

A Look into the World of Water in Mali

Project: West African Women Providing Safe Water and Sanitation

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Source: Tara Todras-Whitehill/ WaterAid
Source: Tara Todras-Whitehill/ WaterAid

The Malian village of Diatoula, Mali, a West African country with 4.9 million people, a third of the population, lacking safe water. But 75% of Mali’s people don’t have adequate sanitation. Tara Todras Whitehill, with WaterAid, angles her camera lens at state of water in villages throughout Mali, and across Western Africa, and how people, mostly women and children, gather it for their families. A health clinic has a kiosk with a pump that provides water for the entire area, about 60,000 residents. Tanks near the kiosk also hold water, which is then pumped to the roof and subsequently pumped into sinks in the delivery room, and to the local school.

The water services have also provided income and stability for many women in the area, including Sitan Coulibaly who manages and sells the water.

‘Everyone comes to get water from here,’ she says. ‘It’s made a big difference. It’s my great pleasure to help the community,’ Coulibaly says

You can view the whole gallery, courtesy of The Guardian, here.

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

Project: West African Women Providing Safe Water and Sanitation

Topics: ,

Photos and Text by Beth Robertson (Research Fellow)


2011 Grassroots Training Participants and Katuuso Primary School Students during the VIP Latrine Construction
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
Many hands make light work: Brick assembly line during the VIP construction


Katuuso Primary School students present during the technology handover ceremony
Katuuso Primary School students present during the technology handover ceremony

 

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!

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

Special Announcement: Mama Catherine, 2010 GWWI Training participant, will be at WEA’s Gala!

Project: West African Women Providing Safe Water and Sanitation

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Mama Catherine and Alice, participants of the 2010 GWWI Training in Ghana, parade the Biosand Water Filter they constructed with their community through the streets of Cameroon.
Mama Catherine and Alice, participants of the 2010 GWWI Training in Ghana,
parade the Biosand Water Filter they constructed with their community
through the streets of Cameroon.

 

What could be more exciting than having one participant of the 2010 West African Women and Water Training in Ghana join WEA to celebrate its 5th Birthday!

On May 18th, Catherine Makane Mwengella from Cameroon will join our community for the 5th Annual Gala at the Julia Morgan Ball Room in San Francisco. We cannot imagine a better way for our community to directly hear the voices of our Africa-based partners with whom we have collaborated to design and implement sustainable water projects to improve the health of communities across Africa.

Catherine Makane Mwengella, who acquired the nickname “Mama Catherine” during the 2010 training, is the President of the NGO Women for Peace in Cameroon. In Ghana, she taught us several songs which have been woven into the fabric of WEA– “We are Together” and “Progress.”

With overwhelming support from their community, Mama Catherine and her partner Alice Balemba Njanga, the Deputy Mayor of the Konye Rural Council in the Southwest region of Cameroon, came to the 2010 GWWI African Women and Water Training in Ghana on a mission to provide clean drinking water  in communities across the Southwest region. Mama Catherine and Alice’s vision of ensuring safe drinking water is imperative to their communities health and safety, since most families have little access to potable drinking water (approximately 5 gallons per day).  

While in Ghana these two dynamic women received training on the Biosan Water Filter (BSF). Alice and Catherine took this knowledge back to their communities and immediately started to inspire better health in their region. Not only have these two incredible women joined their community in constructing a Biosand Water Fiter, they have also taught over 188 people in four villages the principles of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) since March 2010.

We are thrilled to share our respect for Mama Catherine and our incredible pride in the efforts she and Alice are bringing to Southwestern Cameroon with our WEA Family on May 18th.