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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 Celebrates World Water Day with Together for H2OPE!

Project: Together for H2OPE

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Happy World Water Day! Today, we celebrate all the amazing work grassroots change-makers around the world are bringing forth to ensure more women, more children, more families and more communities have access to clean water and healthy water systems. We couldn’t think of a better way of doing this than by uplifting the incredible efforts of the Together for H2OPE Project and its partners in Assam, India!

 

Together For H20PE

In the Spring of 2016, WEA partnered with Numi Organic Tea and the Numi Foundation on Together for H2OPE, a project committed to ensuring clean water to all 6,500 residents of the Tonganagaon tea community in Assam State, Northern India. Along with the Chamong Tea Company, which manages Tonganagaon’s tea leaf production, and local NGO partners Purva Bharati Educational Trust (PBET) and Social Action for Appropriate Transformation and Advancement in Rural Areas (SATRA), this project is supporting Tonganagaon in implementing a multifaceted and comprehensive water system that will ensure clean and healthy water in their community for generations to come.

Assam state is famous for being one of the world’s largest producers of high quality black tea, and the Tonganagaon tea community is also Numi’s largest supplier of organic, Fair Trade black tea. However, the region is one of the poorest in terms of access to clean water; fewer than 1 in 15 households have access to tap water. The Numi Foundation has committed to ensuring that all of Numi Tea’s source communities have access to clean water, and reached out to WEA to collaborate on a comprehensive approach to ensure safe water access to all 12 villages of the Tonganagaon tea garden.


Why Water and Women?

It’s no secret that access to clean water is crucial to eradicating extreme poverty; when the UN introduced the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, they included a goal to ensure that everyone has access to safe water by 2030. Water is an essential building block of life; a community whose water sources put them at risk for illness face barriers of mobility. Water is often the first step toward ensuring a communities livelihood.

Furthermore, challenges to accessing safe water disproportionately affect women and girls, particularly in rural communities. It is most often women who collect water for households, risking their safety and health by traveling for hours a day to and from a water source. Water is a WEA issue because access to natural resources, education, and health are all women’s issue. When women thrive, communities thrive. 

 

WASH and the Importance of Grassroots Implementation

Ensuring a community has access to clean water is often more complex than providing a well. Public health workers use the term WASH to refer to the interconnected variables of water, sanitation, and hygiene. These are the measurable pillars that make up a healthy water system. If latrines aren’t up to date or well-placed, a monsoon could contaminate an otherwise safe water source; if clean water is stored improperly, contamination can make that water unsafe. No one principle of WASH is effective if all three aren’t implemented.

The goals of Together for H2OPE are in-step with a comprehensive WASH program:

  • Improve Infrastructure. Reduce contamination of the 900 existing wells by ensuring proper drainage and upgrading hand pumps and other hardware.
  • Ensure Treatment. Help the community learn how to boil and filter water to minimize bacterial contamination and iron, especially during the monsoon season.
  • Safe Storage. Support community members to safely handle and transport water once it is treated so it does not become re-contaminated.
  • Upgrade Latrines. Provide guidance to Chamong Tea Company, who will be improving existing latrines and constructing 900 new facilities over the next 3 years.
  • Engage the Community. Implement a training program that supports the community’s adoption of good practices in water management, sanitation, and hygiene.

The residents of the Tonganagaon tea garden will have safe water systems for generations to come. A safe water system is not just built by the engineers who are updating and adding safe and strong wells, but by members of the community who are deeply involved in and vital to their own transformation.

Water is a WEA issue because effective water solutions are never a top-down operation. Water solutions live within communities and the grassroots leaders like Bondita Acharya, Director of PBET, who explains that, “PBET’s role is to bring women into the core of the discussion on safe drinking water. Women spend most of their time, especially in the rural areas, tea gardens and hilly regions, fetching water from far flung areas. But when it comes to decisions on managing water they are sidelined. Access to safe drinking water is a basic right of every citizen, and is directly linked with reproductive health rights. However, it is not possible to access it if it is not integrated with sanitation and hygiene.”

As part of this integrated approach to ensure a sustainable impact for generations, in Tonganagaon, key members from each of the 12 villages will become WASH leaders and practitioners themselves. They will be trained to become trainers, holding demonstrations to educate their neighbors in healthy hygiene and sanitation practices.

 

A Unique and Effective Partnership

The partnerships of Together for H2OPE are in-step with what makes the WEA model so effective while remaining adaptable and light-framed. By connecting with mission-aligned partners like Numi Foundation, and woman-run local NGO’s like PBET, the project is ensuring that solutions are in reach of the visionary community leaders invested in their lasting application. This is how WEA and our partners support communities to thrive on their own terms and in ways that will have lasting effects.

This unique collaboration leverages local leadership to ensure relevance, while providing access to the globally recognized best practices and needed resources. We believe it’s a model that will maximize impact and sustainability, ensuring the farming community enjoys access to clean, safe drinking water for generations to come.  — Darian Rodriguez Heyman, Executive Director of the Numi Foundation

Join us this World Water Day to ensure that women, families and communities have access to clean drinking water. By supporting grassroots leaders, we support sustainable and long-term solutions to one of the world’s most most pressing concerns. You can learn more about this work here. Thank you for standing alongside us!

Stories are seeds that grow

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This International Women’s Day we are celebrating women storytellers around the world who protect our earth and safeguard our histories and traditions. Today kicks off a month-long tech drive to Support Women to Tell Their Stories. We are seeking donations of digital cameras, iPhones and other recording devices, iPod Touches, and laptop computers. 

As part of WEA’s training model, women participants gain skills in multimedia and storytelling so they can design and share their own narratives. Participants learn how to use cameras, recording devices, and laptops, as well as master effective storytelling and dissemination. Imagine how quickly our grassroots partners will be able to share replicable solutions with access to better tech tools!

Check out this slideshow from WEA Project Partner Vanastree. It depicts the Malnad Mela — a seed sharing festival in Bengaluru, India. This annual event spreads and celebrates women’s indigenous knowledge of their food forests, builds local economies around indigenous seed and food, and exchanges vital information about adapting to climate changes. Our partners could really benefit from having the tools they need to tell more stories like this.

To support women storytellers around the world on International Women’s Day, check out this flyer for details. Don’t have any tech to donate at the moment but still want to get involved? We are also accepting financial contributions!

Learn more here.

Fire, water, seeds, action!

Have you read our Winter WEAvings Newsletter? These quarterly emails are just one way we keep our community up to date on the amazing work our partners are doing, the exciting happenings behind the scenes here at WEA, important news impacting our work and world, and ways you can get involved!

In this newsletter we shared:

 

WEA winter newsletter 2017 new

Check WEAvings out here, and be sure to sign up on our website to get all our updates in the future.

Let’s get on board

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There is a fire burning, and it’s only spreading. This fire is stoked by people around the world who are fiercely committed to ensuring a bright vision for our families and communities now and far into the future. Thank you so much for being a part of this vibrant, strategic, and resourceful Women’s Earth Alliance — a global community of changemakers who build bridges of peace, cultivate communities of resilience, and design lasting and immediate solutions to the issues we all care about.

We want you to know that we remain steadfast in our belief that when women thrive, the Earth thrives. We enter this tumultuous time committed more than ever to protecting our Earth from assault, ending gender-based violence, expanding women’s livelihood opportunities, supporting Indigenous leadership, and fighting destruction and greed.

We will choose this approach again and again because we know that if our world’s women are truly supported and united to lead, everyone wins.

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We hope you will join alongside us as we continue to weave this life-giving work. We need you today more than ever. Even in these difficult times, we are uplifted because we are together. So, for women and girls everywhere, for activists and allies fighting for what’s just, for Indigenous land and water defenders, for those whose safety is under threat, for our beautiful future — we are here, ready to keep the flame burning and the path ablaze with light. Get on board with us!


Yours, fired up,
Melinda, Amira and the WEA Team