Earlier this spring, WEA and WISE (Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment) hosted two week-long training intensives for the women participants of the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, which trains local women leaders from Kaduna State in Nigeria to use, promote and sell clean cookstoves. After growing their skills through business training, leadership and advocacy development, and financial planning, these entrepreneurs have launched their own clean cookstove businesses and are well on their way to improving the health and safety of countless women in their home communities, reducing deforestation and greenhouse gases, and increasing their own — and others — household savings.
The Kurama Women Enterprise is just one 15 two-person teams that took part in the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Training. After completing our both training intensives in April and May, entrepreneurs Elizabeth Bawa and Rifkatu Yakubu have been busy organizing outreach events in their community to spread the word about this life-saving technology. Their plan is to sell 120 clean cookstoves in their first 6 months!
Here’s an inside look at one of their recent community demonstrations:
To learn more about the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, visit our project page.
In case you missed it, WEA’s latest WEAvings newsletter is dedicated to Drawdown, the New York Times best seller that maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions for reversing the buildup of atmospheric carbon within 30 years. Author, environmentalist, entrepreneur, and WEA Board member, Paul Hawken is also an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, and for years has emphasized the cascading benefits that occur in societies when women are supported to thrive. In Drawdown, the data speaks for itself. The top two solutions (family planning and educating girls) combine to make “…empowering girls and women…the most impactful tool for achieving drawdown.” Several other key solutions like Women Smallholders and Clean Cookstoves also underscore the critical importance of investing in our world’s women.
Every day, WEA training participants, trainers, and leaders model this most basic truth: when women are equipped with resources, agency, and support, they not only profoundly impact their local environment, but they create a positive ripple effect that lifts up entire countries.
As Drawdown describes:
“Due to existing inequalities, women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to [the impacts of global warming], from disease to natural disaster. At the same time, women and girls are pivotal to addressing global warming successfully — and to humanity’s overall resilience…Suppression and marginalization along gender lines actually hurt[s] everyone, while equity is good for all. These solutions show that enhancing the rights and well-being of women and girls could improve the future of life on this planet.”
Within our newsletter, you can check out our project highlights and learn how WEA participants implement specific drawdown solutions for reversing global warming. Read on here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!