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Meet the Interns: Oh hey, Ro!

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Ever wonder who keeps these blog posts coming? Who keeps the drumbeat of our social media channels going? Well, it’s a team effort, and this summer that effort is being led by WEA’s Communications + Outreach Intern, Ro! As a current Media Studies major at the University of California, Berkeley, we couldn’t dream of anyone more ideal to be helping us to make sure our community (that’s you!) is as up-to-date and engaged with our work and partners as possible.

We’re so excited to share with you a little bit more about this communications powerhouse! Meet Ro!

Name: Roisin (Ro) Duffy
Hometown: Mill Valley, CA

If you had a superpower, what would it be (and why)?: To have the ability to control time! I often think of times when I wish I could rewind and relive a specific/memorable event, or pause a great moment so I could really take it in and appreciate it for as long as possible. Time flies when you’re having fun and loving a moment, so why not have the power to pause and/or go back and experience it all over again?

Why did you want to intern with WEA? WEA’s mission is to protect the earth and strengthen communities by equipping women with the power to do so. I think that this goal is incredibly important, as gender equality and female empowerment are elements which are often overlooked when it comes to environmental issues. However, these elements are so important to take into account as women are often the backbone of communities. I fully support WEA’s goals and I wanted an opportunity to be a part of WEA’s mission.

Tell us about a woman who inspires you. I am currently on the Cal Women’s Rowing team, and I honestly would have to say that every single girl who is a part of that team is an inspiration to me. It is truly inspiring being surrounded by such driven, hardworking, and supportive individuals—they are my motivation.

Why women and why the environment? I have always had a passion for the outdoors and the environment—I think that growing up in such a beautiful area contributed to this passion. In addition, I have always had a passion for women’s rights and gender equality. I have taken a number of Gender and Women Studies classes at Cal, which has really opened my eyes to gender related issues and has piqued my interests even more. Women are incredibly important to our communities, and we can only better our communities (and the world) by empowering women and giving them the opportunities to do so.

What does your life outside WEA look like? I am a senior at Cal majoring in Media Studies. In addition to that, I am also on the Cal Women’s Rowing team, which defines me in so many ways and is something that I truly love being a part of (go bears!). In my free time I love being outside, adventuring with my friends and my family, eating and exploring new restaurants, and of course being with my dogs.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area? I am a Bay Area native, so being at home with my family and friends is one of my favorite things. I also love going to the beach (Stinson beach) with my dogs and swimming (when it’s not too cold!)

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to? I am currently watching the new season of Orange is the New Black and catching up on Game of Thrones! I have also been listening to a podcast called “My Favorite Murder” (which I highly recommend!).

Meet the Interns: Welcome Megan!

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Are you as excited as we are to welcome our summer interns to the team? Megan is yet another intelligent, skilled and dedicated women who will be supporting our Programs + Operations team this summer.

 
A current Master’s student at the University of San Francisco, we can’t wait to read Megan’s thesis on the gendered impacts of community-based conservation initiatives at Amboseli National Park in Kenya, and see the positive impact she makes for women and environment in her career. We’re so lucky to work with her!

Name: Megan Clemens
Hometown: Broomfield, Colorado

If you had a superpower, what would it be (and why)? 
If I had a superpower, I would want it to be the ability to speak many languages because I have always wanted to be multilingual. Other than English I am proficient in Spanish, but someday I hope to learn more languages.

 
Why did you want to intern with WEA? I wanted to Intern at WEA because I am passionate about WEA’s mission to bolster female leadership while protecting the environment. Female empowerment and environmental sustainability are issues that represent a big part of who I am both personally and academically. Also, interning at WEA means working with a very impressive and amazing group of women.

Tell us about a woman who inspires you. This is a tough question, because there are so many inspiring women in my life. However, since I was a very young girl I have been inspired by Jane Goodall because her approach to researching chimpanzees was completely revolutionary, and she has also become an incredible leader for conservation. Also, she is 83 years old and traveling and sharing her messages of hope and inspiring change — which is pretty awesome!

Why women and why the environment? Since I was a young girl I have always felt drawn to the outdoors, the environment and conservation. Growing up I spent most of my time outdoors — climbing trees in my backyard, going on mountain biking adventures with my family. I always watched animal planet any chance I got and read every book I could on topics related to conservation. As I grew up I became more aware of women’s issues and was able to piece together the intersectionality of women’s issues and environmental issues. I was incredibly inspired by Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies’ book on Ecofeminism, and I am currently researching topics related to women and the environment through my master’s course work and independent research.

What does your life outside WEA look like? I am pursuing a Master’s degree in International Studies at the University of San Francisco. Currently I am working on my thesis, researching the gendered impacts of conservation development in Kenya. I will be traveling back to Kenya later on this summer to interview Maasai women living near Amboseli National Park about their experience with wildlife conservation and tourism. Outside of school and WEA, I also work as a mental health specialist providing behavioral services to children within their academic settings in the East Bay. Also, my partner and I have 3 dogs so a lot of my time is spent adventuring with them!

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area? I really enjoying the hiking! My favorite places are Redwood Regional Park (because it is so easy to get to from my house) but I also really enjoy Muir Woods, and Point Reyes. Also, since being in the Bay I have really enjoyed being near the ocean. I’ve been able to learn new activities like paddleboarding, and my dogs also love to visit the beach!

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to? Currently, I have become very invested in watching the Handmaiden’s Tale on Hulu. I also watch a lot of documentaries, and I recently discovered a documentary series on Netflix called Tales by Light. This series follows photographers to places all of the world and also discusses the cultural and environmental significance of their work and subjects. As far as music one of my favorite bands, Dispatch, just released a new album. They are awesome because aside from being musicians they use their platform and music to discuss issues of social injustice.

Meet the Interns: Hey Abby!

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One of our favorite parts about our work here at WEA is that each year we get the opportunity to spend time with passionate, inspiring and hardworking people…like Abby! Every intern who joins the WEA family brings with them an incredible array of talents, fresh ideas, and a new perspective. Their dedicated time and effort make it so that our vision of supporting women leaders around the world can be brought to life.

We’re so lucky to welcome Abby, a rising senior at American University in Washington D.C., to our Programs + Operations team this summer!


Name: Abby Newbold
Hometown: San Francisco, California!

If you had a superpower, it would be (and why): To fly! Ironically, I am terrified of heights but my greatest dream is to skydive out of a plane. If I could fly, I could skydive all the time!

Why did you want to intern with WEA? WEA plays a key role in supporting women and the environment, and very few organizations seem to be at the crossroads of the two; this makes WEA an incredibly unique and exceptional organization. I wanted to expand my own dialogue and interest in the combination of women and environment, because I am already studying environmental policy. WEA was the perfect opportunity to help me gain experience in non-profit environmental organizations while committing my work to the larger purpose of uplifting women!

Tell us about a woman who inspires you. My heroes change frequently and the list is always growing, but the woman who has inspired me most recently (I just read her memoir Unbowed!) is Wangari Maathai. Her peaceful and righteous protest in the face of opposition, her positions in the Kenyan government, founding the Green Belt Movement are such inspirational achievements I can only dream of being half as amazing.

Why women and why the environment? Women are vital to our communities, and the world is always better when we support one another. To uplift women is to uplift the world. My goal in life is to help others, especially women, achieve full recognition and presence as leaders and equal figures in our communities. As the environment becomes the greatest challenge facing our world’s leaders, women have a key role to play in the safety and success of sustainable initiatives, both in and out of government.

What does your life outside WEA look like? Here in the Bay Area, I spend time with my family, listen to NPR podcasts, hang out with friends, and work at a bakery in the city on weekends!

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area? I love exploring new places to eat. There are so many great restaurants in both the city and across the bay, and I love trying new foods. Send any suggestions my way!

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to? Currently reading SPQR by Mary Beard, watching Jane the Virgin (I haven’t finished Season 1 yet but I’m getting there!), and listening to Planet Money podcasts when I exercise. It’s a great distraction!

The Original Loom this Mother’s Day

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Each Mother’s Day, we lift up and celebrate the work of mothers and community caregivers around the world. It is no easy task to nurture children, birth movements, or protect our shared future on Earth.

We know that you share our vision that through women’s leadership we can create a future of balance, health, and peace for our world, and we never forget that your partnership is making this vision possible — today and throughout our decade. This Mother’s Day, with your support, WEA’s carefully planted seeds can bloom.

WEA Project Lead Sunita Rao is the Director of Vanastree Collective and Project Lead for our Seeds of Resilience Project in Karnataka, India. Sunita’s work ensures that rural women leaders and small-scale forest home gardeners in one of the most richly biodiverse and therefore severely threatened regions of southern India can advocate for their rights, promote indigenous climate-resilient seed saving practices, and support climate adaptation and mitigation.

Sunita Rao teaching a group remotely about Indigenous seeds and the Vanastree seed bank to preserve this knowledge.

In her own reflection on what it means to nurture and protect, Sunita shared:

“Women…are able to sense the pulse of things in the natural world, which cannot be explained by words. It seems to happen almost by instinct, by an ancient calling that is written into their genetic code.

[It is] the feeling that happens to each of us as we touch our foreheads to the earth — the prostration is almost by reflex, unthinking, something you are so used to. Yet, each time there is that something that sparks off a connection to the Other, that almost gives you the power to be invincible while bringing that keen awareness that you are but a humble drop.

If you remember, that is — remember where the Source is, where the original loom where your own fabric was woven came from.

We are being bombarded by change that has made social and ecological refugees of many of us. In these dark times, the hope lies in the original memory of who we really are, in the primordial bond that connects us to the earth, in what we as women are capable of and…in keeping the sacred alive.

For it is this that will continue to nurture where all else fails. And this is what we must uphold, celebrate, and bring forth over and over again.”

In honor of our mothers — and all the unstoppable women in our lives — we invite you to make a tax-deductible contribution today. Stand with us and with leaders like Sunita as we remember the connection to our original loom, and preserve this hope for future generations.

From our hearts to yours, we wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Days!

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.