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63 million people in rural India are living without access to clean water.

Project: Together for H2OPE

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Here, the day after World Water Day, comes a report on the state of world’s water from Water Aid. In its’ summary of the report, The Hindustan Times underlines how the water strain in India is especially damaging to country’s rural communities.

This report is a reminder that water conservation efforts and the efforts of those working to bring underserved communities access to clean water has no specific day or active season. Our project, Together for H2OPE will help to ensure clean water to over 6,500 tea farmers in Assam state, India. For our amazing project partners on the ground and people fighting all over the world to bring this essential life resource to every person, every day is World Water Day. The time is now, yesterday and tomorrow!

Samir Jama/ HT Times file photo

 

Lack of government planning, competing demands, rising population and water-draining agricultural practices are all placing increasing strain on water, said the WaterAid’s report.

Without access to clean water, 63 million people are living in rural areas in India. Diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria and dengue are expected to become more common and malnutrition more prevalent, it said.

Rural communities dependent on farming to make a living will struggle to grow food and feed livestock amid soaring temperatures, and women — typically responsible for collecting water — may have to walk even greater distances during prolonged dry seasons, the report forewarned.

Read the full article here, and find the report here.

 

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!

The actual difference your $15 will make

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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By: Arielle Moinester, WEA Program Strategist

Throughout the #WEAWorldFoodDayGiveaway, we’ve been sharing stories and raising awareness about our Nigeria Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, and the opportunity to donate $15 to cover the cost of a cookstove for a woman to launch her own clean energy business. In partnership with Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE), we’re excited to be launching this project and ensuring that families in Kaduna State, Nigeria have the chance to breathe healthier air, reduce deforestation, increase household savings, improve health and safety, and transform their sense of personal and community empowerment.

This World Food Day, it’s crucial that we recognize that healthy communities depend not only on healthy food, but on healthy cooking. If a woman in Nigeria cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner over a wood fire, she suffers the equivalent of smoking between 3 and 20 packets of cigarettes a day. Over 93,000 Nigerians (mostly women and children) die annually from inhalation of firewood smoke from indoor cooking (not to mention the deforestation that is destroying regions and increasing climate instability). This project will train women leaders in Nigeria to promote and sell clean cookstoves, reducing these threats overall. In our #WEAWorldFoodDayGiveaway, we invite people to donate $15 to cover the cost of one cookstove for a family.

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But it doesn’t stop there.

WEA and WISE are committed to ensuring that families in Kaduna State have access to clean cookstoves not only during this one year project, but for years to come. That’s why our model is designed to scale and sustain access to clean cookstoves and community awareness beyond the life of the project.

In order to achieve this, 30 women will participate in a three-part training, including leadership, entrepreneurship, and clean cookstove technology. The women will participate in the trainings in 15 pairs and will be selected through an application process starting in the next two weeks that will conclude at the end of November. Graduates of the trainings will receive grants to start their clean cookstove businesses. This is where your $15 contributions come in! Each donation of $15 covers the cost of one cookstove. Grants of $500 for each team are designed to cover the cost of entrepreneurs’ first 20 cookstoves, as well as transportation, marketing, and demonstration events. Furthermore, WEA and WISE will also support the entrepreneur pairs to link to micro-finance institutions. Within the year, each entrepreneur pair is expected to reach approximately 90 families with clean cookstoves—including training families on how to use and maintain them—thereby reaching a total of 13,000 people within one year.

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Olanike Olugboji (center), Founder and Director of WISE, distributing cookstoves to women in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Photo: WISE

In order for women and their families to adopt clean cookstoves, it’s critical that they understand the life-threatening importance of replacing traditional cookstoves, and see positive changes in their own communities. Through participation in community trainings, public demonstrations, networking events, and advocacy campaigns, women will increase their capacity and confidence to be social, ecological, and economic leaders in their families and communities for adoption of clean, safe cookstoves.

Let’s do this!

Join the #WEAWorldFoodDayGiveaway here, and support women entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Your $15 will cover the cost of one clean cookstove, and will enter you to win fabulous prizes from some of our favorite sustainable brands.

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Why Women Have the Solutions to Climate Change

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india washing

According to Yannick Glemarec, deputy executive direct of United Nations Women, and mirroring what WEA has seen in our own work in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, “Women are the first to be affected by climate change in every single country in the world.” Furthermore, women in so-called developing countries are hit the hardest.

As primary caregivers, many women in poorer countries are responsible for trekking miles to collect water and fuel. When climate change depletes water, women notice first. Water is a climate change issue, and climate change is a women’s issue…

As climate change puts pressure on natural resources, fresh water is becoming scarcer, food prices are increasing, and infectious illnesses like the Zika virus are on the rise. Worldwide, women tend to be poorer than their male counterparts and have less representation in policymaking. All this means they are the first to be affected by climate change and the last to be heard on how to combat it.

But even as women are typically the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the ripple effect that causes (e.g. natural disasters, food and water scarcity, etc.), they are also the ones best positions to develop and implement solutions.

Read more about how this informs our work and what we do about it, and read the full article, “Why Fixing Climate Change is Women’s Work” over at Yes! Magazine.

 

The Aftermath of Booming Oil and Fracking Industries: Acknowledging The Impacts on Women and Indigenous Groups.

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

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The homes of oil field workers near Watford City, ND. Photo by Andrew Cullen for The New York Times.
The homes of oil field workers near Watford City, ND.
Photo by Andrew Cullen for The New York Times.
By some accounts, the oil boom in the Bakken region of North Dakota is slowing. According to this article in The New York Times, “as oil prices have skidded to $30 a barrel, new drilling has dried up here, and the flood of wealth and workers is ebbing.”

The article goes on to describe the ways that such a drastic change has impacted the areafrom the debt North Dakota took on to build the infrastructure to support the influx of oil workers since 2008, to those same oil workers leaving the area for home or other jobs now that they’ve been laid off.

But the article is oddly silent on the impact this shift is having on womenIndigenous women especiallyparticularly as more and more information has become available in the last several years about the dangerous intersection of extractive industries like fracking in North Dakota, and the safety and health of women. What has the decrease in the largely male, largely transient, population meant for the protection of women? For their sexual and reproductive health? Furthermore, with profits falling and debt increasing across the state, what will happen to the services for those women who have already experienced environmental violence? What will happen to those shelters, safe houses and survivors programs?

In a countryand worldso heavily reliant on oil and gas, communities like those in the Bakken are built up with little preparation or protections in place during boom times, only to be allowed to later fall with little preparation or protections when industry can no longer profit largely enough in those territories. As we have seen in many industry-impacted areas in North America, Indigenous women are often those most impacted during these booms. How will women fair as that boom wanes?
Read the entire NY Times article here.