GWWI Women and Water: Congrats to GWWI Grad Elected Board Chairperson for her Water District!

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The Global Women’s Water Initiative is so excited to announce that Catherine Wanjohi, GWWI 2011 Graduate has been elected as the Chairperson for the Water Company Board for Naivasha District in Kenya!

Catherine is the Director of Life Bloom, an incredible organization that uplifts ex-commercial sex-workers by offering training and support so they can generate income through dignified vocations such as craftwork, tailoring, hairdressing, beauty therapy and such. In 2011, after attending our Women and Water Training where she learned how to educate the community about clean water, sanitation and proper hygiene (WASH) practices, how to test water to see if it is contaminated and how to build the Biosand filters to provide clean water for their communities, she was able to add this powerful service to Life Bloom’s stable of vocational trainings.

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When Catherine and her partner Susan Njeri returned home from the GWWI training, and shared the technology with their team, they were able to gain a contract to install Biosand Filters in a local women’s prison to provide clean water for the prisoners and guards.
As a result of Catherine’s new and successful water program, she applied for an open position on the Water Company Board for Naivasha District.  In one of our past blogs, Catherine expressed how shocked and excited she was to have been selected as one of two women on the nine person Board. And now to have been elected as the Board Chair is a testament to her leadership, her understanding of her local water issues, and her vision for a future of water security in her region.
We are not only thrilled for Catherine as a powerful voice for women and leader for her local water issues, but also for Naivasha District for recognizing the importance of women being included in the decision-making process regarding community water actions. Although the majority of people on a district-level policy Board are men, to be led by a woman, it is clear that the local government understands that an efficient way forward is to put the leadership into the hands of those who are most affected by lack of water and sanitation – women. This is a huge step for women as changemakers in their communities, and GWWI is so proud to have been able to support Catherine to step into her leadership as a Water Champion! Brava!

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: GWWI Fellow Brings WaSH Education to Village Health Works in Burundi

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The Global Women’s Water Initiative is proud to welcome back GWWI 2011 Fellow Epi Bodhi who just returned from Burundi where she worked with international non-profit Village Health Works (VHW) to train their team to recognize the link between water and health and to promote practices that would reduce the risk of water-related disease. VHW strives to provide quality healthcare to the people of Burundi, with a special program focusing on women, as the United Nations ranked Burundi as one of the world’s five worst places for women and children. Nearly 1 in 10 women die during pregnancy or childbirth and nearly 1 in 5 children die before their 5th birthday.

Epi conducted Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) education seminars for more than 100 accompagnateurs or Community Health Workers (CHW). CHWs are the eyes, ears and spokespeople of VHW and provide advice and health services to the community at large. The CHWs learned to test their water using the Portable Microbiology Lab and to identify strategies for improvements and/or interventions in their current water situation to prevent water related illnesses. After attending the WaSH Training, they intend to integrate comprehensive hygiene training and education into their community outreach.
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Epi has a long background in community health as the former Director of Public Health of Amherst, MA. She applied to the GWWI Fellowship program with the intention of deepening her knowledge in public health on an international level. GWWI selected her from a pool of impressive candidates from all over the US based on her experience transforming her local Department from being not just a provider of public health services but also focusing on social justice. Under her leadership, the department worked on everything from water quality to domestic violence to HIV/AIDs to health access and health equity. Through GWWIs Fellowship program, which links international and East African women to become WaSH Facilitators and trainers, Epi was able to meet and work in collaboration with her public health counterparts in East Africa to share experiences and to learn and collaborate with women addressing their communities’ most pressing needs. Epi learned WaSH Education and appropriate technology construction alongside the GWWI East African Fellows to be able support the GWWI grassroots women’s teams to plan and implement their water strategies when they returned home to their villages. Through the GWWI Fellowship program, Epi was also able to travel and provide support directly on site in their villages, as well as throughout the year as their programs progressed via email and phone.
After attending the GWWI training, Epi was invited to conduct WaSH seminars for VHW, an organization founded Deogratias (Deo) Niyizonkiza, who’s extraordinary story is told in Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, a New York Times best seller named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune
The training was such a great success that VHW has asked her to return to Burundi in December to train an additional 300 Community Health Workers! GWWI is excited to see the work ripple out and make waves of change! Brava Epi!  To read more about Epi’s experience you can follow her blog –

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Team from Uganda Preparing for a Government Water Contract!

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OWAD promotes rural women’s empowerment, alleviates poverty, and eliminates homelessness among widows. With a membership of 2,000, OWAD provides housing for rural women and young mothers among other legal services. After attending the GWWI training, they were able to add water and sanitation solutions to their roster of services for widows and orphans and the community at large.

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When Florence and Eunice returned home from the GWWI training they took quick action. They showed 20 women’s groups how to clean water and cook with the sun using the Solar CooKit, a solar oven made from recycled cardboard boxes and reflective material.

We’re excited to share that Florence and Eunice of Orphans and Widows Association of Development (OWAD) and 2011 GWWI graduates have been offered a government contract to build rainwater harvesting systems and tanks for schools all around the District of Amuria! We at the Global Women’s Water Initiative are extremely proud since one of our primary goals is to support the graduates to be able to earn income for WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) services they can offer their community. They applied to the GWWI Women and Water Training last summer, because they knew that securing water and sanitation would greatly benefit their members as well as their communities.

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The women also learned to test their water using the Portable Microbiology Lab, some discovering that 4 out of their 6 water sources they were using were contaminated. People were so shocked with the results and took immediate action. Florence and Eunice were able to support the widows by helping them raise money in the local community to protect one of their springs from further contamination.
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But the most exciting news is that some of the women learned to build rainwater harvesting systems and have since built 3 tanks benefiting the Amuria primary school. Women learned to make interlocking bricks using the ISSB machine and then used the bricks to build the tank. Even young girls at the Amuria school helped make the bricks!
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ISSB or Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks are bricks made out of clay earth, sand and a little cement and water. They create a much more stable foundation since the blocks are interlocking and there is a major cost savings because it uses less cement for bonding, is more durable and requires less repair and the machine can produce hundreds of bricks per day requiring no electricity – just sheer muscle power.
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OWAD intends to buy a machine so they can double their impact – they would not only build more tanks in their communities, but also construct traditional roundhouses for their beneficiaries – the widows and orphans. They are currently seeking funding to buy the $2,000 machine so they can expand their reach providing housing and clean water to the widows and orphans of Amuria District!
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Lessons from an Indigenous Woman’s Leadership

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Blog entry by Rucha Chitnis, India Director of Women’s Earth Alliance
Twitter: @ruchachitnis
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I had the great honor and joy to speak with Dolores Sales at the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples conference in San Francisco this month.  Dolores is an Indigenous Maya Mam woman from Guatemala, who is one of the leaders of National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos (CONIC).

CONIC promotes the livelihoods and community-led development efforts of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala through a grassroots movement that is also reclaiming their rights to land and other natural resources.  Dolores is also an active member of La Via Campesina (LVC), an international movement of peasant organizations, agricultural workers, fisher folks, pastoralists, rural women and Indigenous communities, who espouse food sovereignty as a principle to transform economic power and promote the rights and dignity of small producers.

Dolores is a part of the women’s leadership commission of LVC that is putting the agenda of gender equality and equity in the center of this vital movement, as well as eliminating all forms of violence against women.  One of the rallying calls of LVC is the unequivocal belief that small farmers can cool the Earth through the promotion of agroecology.

Dolores is a daughter of farmers, who worked the land as a young girl.  She is a part of a larger struggle that is demanding the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.  “Our people want land reforms and territorial defense,” she says.  Indigenous women are an integral part of this struggle and work directly with their communities to articulate their demands.  “People in my community have little land to cultivate and have to work on large farms and plantations to survive.”

She shares that one of the key demands of women in her community is to have land titles in their names.  Another major effort is to promote Indigenous women’s integrated view of development that is based on their cosmology and spiritual beliefs with a deep reverence for “Mother Earth.”  She passionately articulates that women’s critical contributions as food producers should be recognized in Indigenous communities and beyond.

I asked her to share her reflections on her personal leadership journey. “Poverty has educated me,” she says. “I learned to listen to our elders, and I have learned much by the collective mobilization of my community that is demanding its rights from the state.”   Dolores notes that donors can stand in solidarity with the efforts of Indigenous women by recognizing their role as key defenders of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the rights of Mother Earth.  Dolores also suggests that donors should support spaces for fair trade, as the production of small farmers “has no value under free trade.”

Her final words of wisdom remind us of our “shared responsibility” to protect and defend our planet in peril.  Thanks to the leadership of women, like Dolores, donors are slowly recognizing Indigenous women’s agency as grassroots changemakers impacting both—local and policy level shifts.

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Congratulations to GWWI Trainer Godliver Businge Graduating #1 in Her Class!

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Godliver lays foundation for the toilet slab
Godliver lays foundation for the toilet slab

A huge congratulations goes out to Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) Trainer Godliver Businge who recently graduated #1 in her class at St Joseph’s Technical Institute in Uganda – and incidentally, the ONLY WOMAN! Not only did Godliver receive top marks in Civil Engineering, on April 28, 2012, she gave the commencement speech attended by the Minister of Education, who soon after invited her to his office and offered her a job. She graciously declined because she has her sights on getting her degree and ultimately her PhD in Civil Engineering.

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We met Godliver when she was attending the Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme where she was working towards a Certificate in Bricklaying and Concrete Practice. URDT trains people who live on less than $1 per day to take a visionary, entrepreneurial approach to developing their own lives, families and communities.  We hired her to train GWWI participants to build Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) toilets to meet the sanitation needs of their communities. Decked from head to toe in her construction coveralls and protective helmet, Godliver was an inspiration to the GWWI participants, as well as the students at the school where the VIP was built during our Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda in July 2011. The participants were very impressed by her meticulous and detailed instruction and her capacity to simplify the construction since many of the women had never picked up a shovel in their lives. One female student at the school declared “When I grow up, I want to be an engineer”!

Godliver’s mission is to engage more Ugandan women to pursue engineering and become professionals. She had a local radio show called “Ladies Night” and went into the villages to recruit more girls. Through her efforts, URDT saw a three-fold increase in enrollment to the URDT Girls School.

After graduation, Godliver was contracted to help design and construct  small scale hydro-electric schemes in Kasese and Fort Portal. They are working towards manufacturing the turbine locally to ensure that it can be maintained and repaired by local community members.

Godliver at her Graduation
Godliver at her Graduation


Like Global Women’s Water on FacebookAt the young age of 25, Godliver is a role model for all of us. A true Water Champion, Godliver is determined to pave the way for women to challenge gender stereotypes, professionalize their services and take the lead in an issue that affects them deeply – water and sanitation.