GWWI Report From the Field: Women Prisoners Provide Their Own Clean Water

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

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The Global Women’s Water Initiative Team has been traveling through East Africa to visit the women teams that were trained in our 2011-2012 year long training program. Meet the people whose lives they are changing.
GWWI Team – Gemma Bulos, Director; Rose Wamalwa, Kenya/Tanzania Field Coordinator; Comfort Mukasa, Uganda Field Coordinator
Lydia, Naivasha Women's Prison Warden
Lydia, Naivasha Women’s Prison Warden
Lydia, the senior warden of Naivasha Women’s Medium Security Prison in Kenya believes that prisons should be a place for rehabilitation and transformation. In her experience, she has seen that the majority of the women who have been sentenced to time spent in prison are often convicted of crimes such as prostitution and/or abandoning their children. Despite the reasons for women feeling forced to resort to prostitution to provide for their children and having to abandon them to do so, it is still a crime and women can spend up to 3 years in prison for such offenses

Lydia believes this is an opportunity for women to transform their lives and create a new beginning. She has introduced different vocational opportunities such as craft making, sewing and embroidery for the inmates to consider doing as an alternative when they are released. When she learned about the Biosand Filter from one of GWWI Graduates Susan Njeri and Catherine Wanjohi of Life Bloom International, she thought it would be a perfect technology for the inmates to learn while being able to provide clean water for the prison.
Life Bloom, prison guards and inmates and GWWI Team with the biosand filter
Life Bloom, prison guards and inmates and GWWI Team with the biosand filter

Life Bloom International uplifts the lives of abused women with an emphasis on ex-commercial sex workers and provides them with opportunities for leadership and alternative livelihoods for a brighter future.

Inmates perform poetry
Inmates perform poetry
Inmates and GWWI team dance!
Inmates and GWWI team dance!
Susan, an ex-commercial sex worker herself, went through the Life Bloom program, transformed her life and found herself alongside Director, Catherine Wanjohi as invited participants in the GWWI Women and Water Training Program. They brought the BSF back to Naivasha and were invited by Lydia to train the inmates in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) education and to construct the BSF. The inmates were able to build two filters that are now providing all the water for the female inmates, the guards and the four children living in the prison (children under four live with their inmate mothers).
Prior to having the Biosand Filter, there were very regular outbreaks of diarrhea and vomiting, with the worst of the outbreaks happening just before the training.  They have had the filter for nearly 9 months and there has not been one episode of diarrhea since then. The male prisoners are now asking that the BSF be installed in their prison.
Thanks to the incredible inspiration of Lydia and the expertise and commitment of Life Bloom, the women prisoners now have a future full of hope!

Mary Saves $1000s With Clean Water

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

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Mary in her organic garden
Mary in her organic garden

Meet Mary, a businesswoman who sells clothes in a small shop and lives in a small house in Matejo, a slum area in Arusha, Tanzania. A few years back she had an operation on her back and was advised by her doctor to take safe water only. She was also told not to take boiled or bottled water.  Following her doctor’s unusual prescription, she sought alternative options to treat her water.  After trying a few local options and not liking them because they still made her nauseous, she found out about the Biosand water filter from Anna Anatoli of ANEPO, a GWWI graduate who was selling this new water treatment in Arusha.

Anna learned how to build the Biosand Filter at the GWWI Women and Water Training and brought it back to her community to start a small micro-enterprise.

Mary attended an ANEPO Health and Wellness Training which was a 2-day Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Training educating the community about the benefits of good hygiene, promoting the Biosand filters (BSF) as an option for clean water, and the benefits of planting organic food for healthy eating. Here she learned how important it was not only to have safe water for drinking, but for cooking, cleaning dishes, hand washing and bathing. Mary was immediately impressed by the BSF because it could remove up to 97-99% of bacteria and it could produce over 100 liters of water per day – enough for her whole family to have safe water for all their water-related activities.

Mary’s son next to the BSF with a safe storage container on top

Before buying the Biosand Filter, when someone in her family fell sick from typhoid from the contaminated tap water piped to her house from the municipality, she would end up spending much of her pay on treatment, which made it difficult for her to save money. Because she had 14 people living in her household, she could spend sometimes up to 500,000TSH (approx.: $350) per week on medicines and hospital visits – not to mention lost wages from missing work. After having the BSF for 7 months, there has not been one incidence of typhoid in her family since they installed the filter.

GWWI African Field Team with Mary and neighbors
GWWI African Field Team with Mary and neighbors

Mary is so grateful to have been relieved from the financial burdens of water related illnesses that have held herself and her family back from opportunities.  Based on ANEPOs Health and Wellness Program she also learned how to grow organic vegetables in recycled grain bags in the small spaces in front of and next to her home. Thanks to GWWI graduate Anna Anatoli and ANEPO, Mary has clean water, healthy food and is thriving!

Visit GWWI’s website for more.

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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