In 2010, Monica Ayomah participated as 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 so beautifully unfolded over the years. Today she is a WASH trainer in Ghana, touching the lives of countless more women — causing ripples of leadership, healthier communities, and a thriving earth!
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.”
It is widely understood that women are those most affected by poor water, sanitation, and hygiene deficiencies. In sub-Saharan Africa it is estimated that women spend a combined total of 16 million hours a day collecting drinking water. The hours spent gathering water are a significant loss of time that could be spent on generating income or engaging in other productive activities. The physical burden of carrying heavy amounts of water over long distances can lead to back and neck strain, and navigating unsafe distances place women at risk for assault and rape. Furthermore, as primary caretakers of the family, women often feel an increased burden when family members contract waterborne or related illnesses.
While many clean water initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa focus on installing wells or supplying communities with technology that could require maintenance as years pass, trainings that invest in the existing leadership and knowledge of women have long-term benefits. When women leaders who know what their communities need most are able to access what they need to be water and sanitation trainers, gain entrepreneurial skills, and receive seed funding to launch their own water projects designed to last, a ripple of change can take place. Monica has found that when women with established leadership introduce water and sanitation technologies, and are able to assess and communicate their viability to the community, the projects are well-received and sustainable over time.
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 project also served as a platform from which the local women trainers could launch their facilitation careers. GWWI is now its own organization, continuing this vital programming in East Africa.
Monica trained the 15 teams of two 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 satisfy some of their own needs.”
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.
“The training brought me outside my shell,” she said.
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.
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.”
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. Won-Nyeya is still a young firm and Monica’s direction is taking them in exciting and inspiring directions!
These are the ripples of co-empowerment that grow and move outward from this work in endless directions, everyday!