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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

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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.

Florence and Fulera bring Improved Access to Drinking Water to Ghanaian Schools

Project: West African Women Providing Safe Water and Sanitation

Topics: , ,

The following article was written by Beth Robertson, Research Fellow at Women’s Earth Alliance. This article was published in the Spring 2011 “A Matter of Spirit” newsletter published by Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center.  To read more click here.

4544593725_836a1d379d_bIn 2010, two powerful women leaders from Ghana—Florence Iddrisu and Fulera Mumuni—participated in a training through the Global Water’s Initiative.  They were introduced to four different area appropriate technologies designed to address issues of water and sanitation.  Following the training, these women leaders developed an action plan to construct a rainwater harvesting system that would serve the women’s dormitory at their local high school.  Florence and Fulera chose Bimbilla High School for their project because, like many schools across Africa, it was not equipped with ample water facilities.  Students and teachers would often have to bring water to school or fetch water during class time, limiting time devoted to studies.Women in Bimbilla, Ghana—and women all over the world—are the cornerstones of their communities.  They shoulder the burden of water-harvesting, spending countless hours fetching and managing water for drinking, agriculture and cooking.  Women are also key to improving access to safe drinking water in their communities.

Florence and Fulera’s pilot project brought tremendous change to Bimbilla, decreasing the hours that female students have to walk in search of water.  The female dormitory at Bimbilla High School now has a complete rainwater harvesting system that serves 210 female students, providing them improved access to potable drinking water at the school. Today, Florence and Fulera continue to spread knowledge of low cost, effective solutions to inadequate sources of water in other areas in their community.

Safe drinking water is a human right and the participation of women in conceiving technologies to address issues of water and sanitation is essential. The Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI), a program of Women’s Earth Alliance in partnership with Crabgrass, embraces the idea that local women leaders who understand the needs of their communities merely need the resources, confidence and training to inspire change and improve the health of their communities. GWWI holds capacity-building trainings throughout Africa to equip local women leaders with technology training, networking support, and seed funding to launch sustainable water projects in their communities. “Access to fresh water and sanitation does not only improve the health of a family, but it also provides an opportunity for girls to go to school, and for women to use their time more productively.”  Women are the stewards of their natural resources in their communities and therefore hold the key to improving access to safe drinking water in their communities.

Florence and Fulera’s model succeeded because of its bottom-up, grassroots nature. Top-down, dependency driven development solutions have failed communities too many times.  Co-designing solutions to development challenges based on local vision rather than outside wants are the foundation for sustainable development—investing in existing leadership and knowledge of women who know what their communities need most. This approach avoids the pitfalls of top-down practices and outsider-generated attempts at assistance that can fall short or even reinforce damaging dynamics. For sustainable development to take root, we must rely on the local, environmental stewards and community caretakers to identify and co-design solutions that address issues of water and sanitation. Local women understand the needs of their community; all they need are the resources and confidence to design solutions and engineer change.