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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.

WEA’s Seeds of Resilience Project kicks off Storytelling Initiative

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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Volunteer photographer Batt introduces the instructors at Punarchith Training Centre to the donated equipment. Photo: Vanastree

In March, WEA Project Partner Vanastree held their first photography training session, kicking off a storytelling initiative within our joint Seeds of Resilience Project. This unique storytelling initiative supports the project’s ongoing efforts to ensure seed and food sovereignty and the transfer of traditional knowledge in Karnataka State, India.

In storytelling workshops, participants are gaining skills in multimedia and storytelling to craft and share their own narratives. These women and young people are learning how to use cameras, recording devices, and laptops, as well as how to master effective storytelling and dissemination techniques. 

The Vanastree team gathered for three days at the Punarchith Training Centre in Nagavalli village, where Vanastree Director and Project Lead Sunita Rao, and volunteer photographer Batt Anderson, introduced the Punarchith staff to the equipment donated by WEA supporters and partners. The Vanastree and Punarchith team spent the day creating a curriculum to introduce the training participants to photography and ensure they felt comfortable and confident with the equipment

The next day, seven enthusiastic young women participants had a full day of photography lessons. This was the first time most of the participants had ever handled a camera in their lives. They were excited and ready to explore all of the endless possibilities of this form of self-expression.

Photo: Vanastree

Do you remember the first time you saw your world through a new lens?

After a request to let their fears dissolve and imaginations run unbounded, they were off! Participants set out in pairs and threes to try out taking portraits of each other. They took the cameras on a stroll through courtyards with drying areca, forest gardens, quiet dark corners with snoozing grandmothers, and the ancient kitchen where masala majjigay (spiced buttermilk) was being churned in the heat of summer. Participants got to see their photos uploaded onto a laptop and learned more about framing, lighting, and the possibilities of digital editing.

The young women then set out a second time with the cameras that afternoon, this time with some guidelines to pay attention to color, pattern, and texture. Batt accompanied the group to provide guidance and answer questions.

Participants experimented with texture and color. Photo: Vanastree


While they uploaded and reviewed their second round of photos, participants discussed how photography could be used to engage in topics such as family, land, water, relationships, feelings, women’s tasks and other pertinent issues.
 They spent some time talking about how to let their minds and imaginations run free.

When the training weekend ended, the group decided that the equipment would remain at the Punarchith Training Center so that it could be checked out when someone wanted to work on their photography — this way, it was accessible to even more people than we originally anticipated.

Sunita remarked on the great joy and attentiveness the group showed as participants took photos and everyone got to share and discuss each other’s work. Later the women talked about how grateful they felt to be trusted with the equipment and how they had only ever seen cameras in other people’s hands. They celebrated the opportunities that presented themselves now that this remarkable tool was accessible to them, too.

Soumya and Radha taking pictures. Photo: Vanastree

Thank you to all the incredible WEA allies that donated tech equipment to this project and to other WEA projects. We are thrilled to see the results of this first wave of Storytelling trainings, all part of of our larger capacity-building trainings happening in partnerships around the world. The possibilities abound when the agency of women to share their own stories and experiences is respected and honored!

WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Training Retreat Gaining National Attention

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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The WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Project, partnership between WEA and Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) in Kaduna, Nigeria, just completed its first of two week-long training retreats and The Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves featured the project its newsletter this month!

This [training] will help empower fellow women leaders in their communities, and break the structural barriers which limit the success of renewable energy initiatives around the world. This initiative is highly commended by the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

We are honored to have this work highlighted by an amazing organization, and one whose own work is so inspiring, like the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves! Read the entire article here.

The 15 cookstove teams are now back home, gathering information to build their business models during  the final training retreat at the end of May!

 

 

An innovative partnership for peace, justice and environmental healing

Project: The Ripple Academy

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Have you heard about The Ripple Academy?

For the last 6 months, WEA and United Religions Initiative have worked together to develop a framework and launch this innovative new partnership, and we couldn’t be more excited to be working together to support more women around the world than ever before!

This holistic training program merges the very best of our organizational models, integrating leadership, conflict resolution, and peace-building with action-oriented skills and tools for on-the-ground impact. By combining WEA’s capacity-building training model with URI’s vast network of women’s circles around the world, thousands more will be reached and provided with the skills and tools necessary to spark lasting change.

For WEA and URI, this partnership has been like finding a long-lost sibling. As URI Executive Director Rev. Victor Kazanjian explains, our organizations share a “deep-rooted connection to the empowerment of grassroots people.” WEA and URI are both organizations deeply invested in listening rather than telling. We share the core understanding that the wisdom necessary for communities to create change already exists within those communities.

URI Director Rev. Victor Kazanjian (right) with special guests at the launch of “The Ripple Academy” in early March. Photo: Eli Zaturanski Photography

After years of arriving at the same conclusions – that environmental protection and women’s empowerment are essential precursors to developing stable and thriving communities worldwide – our organizations have chosen to link efforts to develop a unified strategy that will create a greater impact than either organization could achieve on its own.

For URI, this comes from years of understanding the nature of patriarchal religions, shares Victor. URI has worked in over 97 countries worldwide, and has seen that women are often the most effective grassroots leaders in their communities, despite the structural and societal limitations they face. This experience has strengthened URI’s commitment to working with and supporting women’s leadership networks. Women are getting the work done!

“What we know is this,” Victor says. “Where women thrive, communities thrive.” WEA obviously could not agree more!

The Ripple Academy is not about outside experts telling communities what is needed. This innovative partnership will provide training to women grassroots change-makers so they have the skills they need to affirm their own visions for their communities.

“We are both light framed organizations,” Victor explains, “we are not organizations looking to build a big center that dictates what should be done. We’re not a development agency. We push resources out into communities to women so they can create change in their own communities.

URI and WEA come together at a critical time – when efforts to build bridges across nations, learn from each other, and activate people power are needed more than ever. Our partnership enables both organizations to reach deeper and wider, catalyzing a global ripple effect that begins in our communities. The time is now.

WEA and URI launch The Ripple Academy! 

Project: The Ripple Academy

Women’s Earth Alliance and United Religions Initiative have joined forces to launch The Ripple Academy, a coordinated training experience to equip leading change-makers with the skills, tools, and alliances they need to build bridges of cooperation and environmental solutions for generations to come.

Designed collaboratively by a global team, The Ripple Academy will bring together the best of URI and WEA’s training models. In its first year, 15-20 grassroots women leaders will complete coordinated trainings, building their skills in leadership, action planning and environmental stewardship. Ripple Academy participants will transform grassroots initiatives into high-impact and scalable projects with long-term ripple effects. Technical and entrepreneurship training, a networking platform, leadership skills, and mentorship will empower participants to organize communities, mobilize resources, and launch environmental projects and campaigns.

This is the ripple effect that WEA and URI have seen again and again in our work — that agency, skills, and empowerment build upon themselves exponentially.

WEA and URI have nurtured networks of committed grassroots leaders in a combined 100 countries over 28 years. Our organizations share a core commitment to following the lead of the grassroots leaders who are on the ground, sparking change in their own communities. As URI Director Rev. Victor Kazanjian said, “We are both light-framed organizations. We are not organizations looking to build a big center that dictates what should be done. We’re not a development agency. We push resources out into communities to women so they can create change in their own communities.”

WHY WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT?

Because when women thrive, the natural world, peace, and justice thrive. As underscored by countless governments, development agencies, and the United Nations alike, women are often both the most impacted by conflict and environmental crises, as well as best positioned to design and spread solutions. This work fosters women’s environmental leadership because without a healthy natural world and access to water, food and clean energy, peace cannot flourish.

WEA and this partnership with URI — this is not small. This is at the very core and very heart of what it is we have to understand, enable, support, protect, honor, and allow to come forth…We can reverse global warming but we can’t unless we empower the majority of the world. And that would be women and girls.”
— Paul Hawken, Author, Entrepreneur, WEA Advisory Board Member

Download our brochure for more information on The Ripple Academy.