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A Trainer-in-Training shares her story from the 2011 East African Women and Water Advanced Training

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The following blog post was written by Advanced Training Participant Nansubuga Immaculate.  Immaculate is a Trainer-In-Training at the 2011 East African Women and Water Advanced Training in Kampala, Uganda, where she is training to become a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) practitioner. She has come to the training from Katosi, Uganda, along with two other women from her organization, Rose and Mastuula, who participated in the Grassroots Women and Water training.  You can read Immaculate’s inspiring story below.
 

Nansubuga Immaculate (in pink hat) at the 2011 GWWI Training in Uganda.
Nansubuga Immaculate (in pink hat) at the 2011 GWWI Training in Uganda.

 

While at work, my boss sent me a link to the 2011 Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) East African Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda and encouraged me to look it up and apply. Honestly, it took me a whole week to visit the link. But when I did, I just knew I could not miss out on this opportunity. Prior to the training, I believed that I was not a whole woman leader, even though my profession required good leadership traits. Despite this, I wanted to attend the GWWI training because I considered it a great opportunity to elevate my Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) skills and bring positive change to the Mukono community, especially among the women from Katosi Women Development Trust (KWDT).  The action-planning component of the Training appealed to me. I have always wanted to know how to make an action plan and be able to implement the strategies from start to finish. Despite my keen interest, I questioned my ability to contribute to and qualify for the 2011 GWWI Training. After all, I had never attended a GLOBAL conference before. 

Despite my fear, I was selected to be a participant (Trainer-in-Training) of the first annual GWWI Advanced Training Program, where I joined an amazing group of women leaders from around the world to discuss water and sanitation issues that threaten East Africa. During the training, I yearned to be a loud and strong speaker, but I realized that I am soft-voiced. Thank God for the Personal SWOT  [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats] analysis. Through this exercise, my leadership style was realized, and I gradually understood that my weaknesses are another’s strengths and that working together makes our impact stronger. I am now content with my communication skills. I am soft-voiced, but firm and eloquent, which is an added advantage while facilitating trainings, interviews, and the one-on-one conservations that I facilitated during the Grassroots Training. Using my new-found strengths, I discovered that though quiet of voice, I can still be a strong lobby for rural communities to achieve equal development.

Katosi Women Development Trust (KWDT) selected Rose and Mastuula to attend the 2011 Grassroots Training in Kampala. Mastuula and Rose saw the training as a great opportunity to learn to construct a Biosand Water Filter (BSF) to increase access to clean water in women-run households throughout the Katosi District. At the training they stood beside their East African sisters, affirming that women are the water stewards in their communities and have to stand up and act for themselves–especially widows. Women should stop self-pitying themselves because it is a strong contributing factor to under-development in rural communities. Through the training, they embraced the power of collective sharing, working in sisterhood with participants from communities throughout East Africa to change attitudes and negative behaviors of communities towards water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
At the training, we learned that it is crucial to consider and integrate all community stakeholders and their needs when establishing any new water project. We covered sessions on climate change, leadership, WASH and appropriate technologies. The climate change sessions really resonated with me. In my community, climate change and its impacts are gradually affecting the livelihoods of the rural people. Their economies, health and environment are dwindling. The last long dry spells early this year affected agricultural productions and contributed to scarcity of water. Three KWDT women’s cows died and over ten were infected with diseases. The reduction in food productivity led to malnutrition, and scarcity of water increased poor sanitation–especially in schools and communal centers. My team identified the need for our community to be sensitized and made aware of the climate change impacts, mitigation, and adaptation techniques.
And to achieve my team’s WASH vision of “increased accessibility to clean safe drinking water in rural households,” we have to use an inclusive and participatory approach.  My team wants to achieve this big vision of all rural women living healthy lives and empowered to participate in economic, social, and political development processes. We also want to be free from dependency and achieve self-supply of not only WASH facilities, but also what the world offers for a better change among rural women.

So, this training is a big step to achieving our goal. Though this is a big challenge ahead of Katosi Women, we have to put the fears aside and stand strongly to achieve this.
Thanks to Gemma, Jan, Maame, Debbie, Beth, Women’s Earth Alliance, iCON, Crabgrass, the GWWI participants, the strong communities and NGOs for enabling us to take this step.
EEEEEE….. WOMAN EEEE…!!!

Fellows in Action! 2011 East African Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda.

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

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Photo: Beth Robertson

The 2011 East African Women and Water Training has begun! Women’s Earth Alliance’s Global Women’s Water Initiative, in partnership with Crabgrass and iCon Women and Young People’s Leadership Academy, is currently leading the third African Women and Water Training,  strengthening women’s voices  in the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector.  To learn more about GWWI and the 2011 East African Women and Water Training  in Kampala, Uganda, click here.
GWWI Fellows  are women graduate students and development professionals from around the globe who act as global peers for participants of the 2011 Grassroots Training in Uganda. For full bios of the 2011 GWWI fellows, click here.
The following post is written by GWWI Fellow Samantha Winter

  
I have always imagined a world in which every woman could stand up in front of a room full of sisters, friends, or strangers and say without hesitation, without self-doubt, without self-criticism, “I am a powerful woman! I am a leader! I am a global water champion!”

Today was an inspiring manifestation of the strength, wisdom, compassion, and hope of every woman that lives each day with a dream that global access to reliable, adequate and safe sources of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is an achievable reality. It was the first official day of the 2011 East Africa Global Women’s Water Initiative Training in Uganda—a day in which the seed of an empowered world was planted. I have no doubt that it was also the first day of many in which that seed will continue to be nourished through the actions, love, and support of GWWI women leaders from across five nations. Although today was only the beginning of our journey as GWWI fellows, there is already a sense of kinship and camaraderie among the impassioned women, and it gives me hope that the transition for a better world is alive and well within the hearts, minds, and work of every woman around the globe.

Each woman present in the training shared a unique and fundamental connection to water; yet, despite the many differences in personal experience, background, or knowledge of water, almost everyone seemed to embrace the ideas that water is the essence of women, women are the heart of water, and water symbolizes peace. Today was an internal journey as much as an external forum for cross-cultural information sharing. It was an opportunity to rekindle the spirit of water and leadership within each of us, and to open up our minds, bodies, and hearts—our whole beings—to the power and knowledge of ourselves and our fellow water sisters and champions. Through leadership activities, program and personal introductions, and a discussion on climate change I felt the enthusiasm, the, passion, and the exuberance surrounding women’s connection with, roles in and contributions to WASH expand steadily throughout the day. In addition, I watched every participant gallantly bridge cultural and racial boundaries, form relationships, build trust, and put her faith in the power of a unified network of resilient women that will, undoubtedly, expand the reach of WASH throughout communities around the world. I truly believe that together we will exceed expectations, shatter social, political, and institutional boundaries, and show all the men, youth, children, naysayers and future leaders in our own communities and around the world that empowered women have the power and the capacity to create lasting, sustainable development, particularly in the WASH sector. After all, water is the essence of women, women are the heart of water, and water is peace.  We are the peace leaders!

So let the GWWI games continue!

Women in the Center of Crop Diversity & Food Security

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Women farmers displaying indigenous seeds that they save at a community seed bank in Karnataka.
Women farmers displaying indigenous seeds that they save at a community seed bank in Karnataka.
Blog entry by Rucha Chitnis, India Program Director, who is traveling in Southern India to research women farmers’ green traditional knowledge systems for farming, seed saving and managing their natural resources.
Let’s start from the very beginning.  And some might say that it all began with the seeds. Seed, a symbol of fertility and perpetuity, of culture and sustenance in India, is also becoming a symbol of self-reliance and a key resource to preserve the biodiversity of indigenous crops on small farms across the country.In Southern India, GREEN Foundation, a community-based organization that works with small and marginalized farmers, including tribals and Dalits, in semi-arid regions of Karnataka, has immersed itself in this challenge of promoting the conservation of indigenous seeds among farmers since 1996.
 
During my visit to the Foundation, I learn that women farmers are in the center of their seed conservation efforts due to their gendered roles as the primary seedkeepers in India.  The Foundation began its work with five women farmers and a handful of indigenous seeds. “When we began talking to the farmers, we realized that traditional varieties of seeds had almost disappeared. Without seeds what we were attempting to do would be a non-starter,” notes Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad, founder and a seed conservationist.
The Foundation believes that women farmers also hold the key to preserving the biodiversity of the crops and their knowledge systems of seed saving and mixed and natural farming are vast, which need to be documented and promoted.  Dr. Vanaja shares an example of an elderly woman farmer, who identified nearly 80 varieties of greens in her field, as well as their uses for medicinal and nutrition needs. “Her knowledge was phenomenal,” she says. “When it comes to food security, women play a key role in identifying food that is available. In lean seasons, they trek to the nearby forests, and they are able to identify roots and tubers for their food requirements and medicinal plants.”
Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad, founder of the GREEN Foundation
Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad, founder of the GREEN Foundation

 

This intimate knowledge of women, believes Dr. Ramprasad is often undermined by the scientific community and biotechnology companies who promote agro-technologies, which might not be appropriate for rural communities, and especially for the economically disadvantaged farmers. Dr. Ramprasad shares that some of the greens on the farms, which poor farmers in India subsist on during lean periods, might be considered as weeds by some agro-companies, which are eliminated by herbicides.

The Foundation programs promote the conservation of agro-biodiversity, ecological farming practices, seed conservation and creation of community-managed seed banks.   Seed conservation has been in the center of the programmatic efforts of the Foundation. Their research and analysis showed that India’s Green Revolution in the 1960s eroded the diversity of indigenous seeds with the introduction of the high yielding varieties of seeds and pervasive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  As farmers moved away from the practice of saving and exchanging seeds with their neighbors and families to buying the HYV seeds from the market, their own indigenous knowledge systems related to farming and seed saving became slowly irrelevant in the face of industrial agriculture.

 Gene bank of indigenous seeds set up by the GREEN Foundation
Gene bank of indigenous seeds set up by the GREEN Foundation

 

“India is a land that had over 100,000 varieties of rice,” she says, but now only a few popular varieties are sold in urban markets. The Green Revolution also focused on intensive cultivation of rice and wheat and ignored other indigenous varieties of crops, like millets–considered to be a vital source of nutrition in rural India.  The Foundation encourages women farmers to save indigenous varieties of millets, which are ideal crops to grow in arid and semi-arid areas as some varieties are drought-resistant and require little water for irrigation, compared to rice and other cash crops. As small-scale and marginalized women farmers largely depend on the rain for their irrigation needs, millets are an important source of food security in areas where recurring droughts or dwindling and unreliable rainfall cause stress among farmers.

“In many ways, we have to rekindle the pride that the farmers have in their traditional farming systems,” says K. P Suresh, Associate Director of the Foundation. He believes that the traditional role women play in seed selection, seed conservation, and seed treatment to prevent the crop from developing unhealthy, are critical and need to be documented and promoted.  Seeds also symbolize the cultural heritage of communities across India, and they are an integral part of many rituals, ceremonies and festivals.  And seed conservationists, like Dr. Ramprasad, affirm that the practice of seed saving has been a cornerstone of farming traditions that made agriculture, itself, a way of life.

 

World Rivers Review: The story of Comfort and Georgina’s provision of improved water and sanitation in Ghana

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“Water is life. When everyone has access to sources of water that are treated, protected and managed effectively, there will be improvement in the livelihood of the community members – especially women and children who have to move miles away in search of water for daily household activities.”
—Nadiatu Ali and Victoria Yaro (2010 GWWI Grassroots Graduates)

For full story, click here

For full story, click here

More people die from unsafe water than all forms of violence, including war. Africa faces some of the most acute and devastating water problems in the world. African women must endure the worst of these challenges, yet they are often left out of development schemes and policies. The FAO recognizes that the “exclusion of women from the planning of water supply and sanitation schemes is a major cause of their high rate of failure.” Click here to read the story of Comfort and Georgina who are changing rural water and sanitation in their Ghanaian community.

Collaborations for the Sacred Earth

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Last Wednesday, over 200 people packed the theater and an overflow room at the Brower Center for WEA’s final Weaving the Worlds event of 2010! We are so grateful that so many of our community gathered to support our work in North America. Check out our Facebook page for beautiful photographs of the event.

winona 11.10

 

Our Collaborations for the Sacred Earth event began with a Solutions Salon, with indigenous environmental organizations from Northern California sharing their stories and work with our event attendees. Joining us were the International Indian Treaty Council, Black Mesa Indigenous Support, the Winnemem Wintu tribe, 1,000 Hummingbirds, Seventh Native American Generations Youth Magazine, Intertribal Friendship House, Rooted In Community, American Indian Contemporary Arts, Land is Life, Sacred Land Film Project, Native Bay Circle KPFA Radio, Shellmound Walk, and Cultural Conservancy.

audience 11.10

 

Musicians Cy Wagoner, Natural Man, George Galvis, and T-Hawk blessed the evening with powerful flute, drumming and song.

WEA artistic lead Nikila Badua opened the evening with a grounding song, with WEA Co-Director Amira Diamond on violin. Co-Directors Melinda Kramer and Amira Diamond told stories from our work in Africa and India. After sharing our moving video from the May 2010 Advocacy Delegation, Defending Sacred Places in the Southwest, North America Director Caitlin Sislin provided an in-depth look at the work of our Advocacy Network in promoting energy justice, sacred places protection, and environmental health in collaboration with indigenous women environmental leaders.

In her keynote address, Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth invited us to cultivate a shared sense of moral outrage and of hope – and named the crucial role of friends and allies in the movement for environmental justice and sustainability. We are honored to stand in alliance with Honor the Earth and our other project partners throughout North America.

WEA team 11.10

 

Come join us once again on Sunday, November 21st, 2010 at 8:30 P.M. for a celebration of the harvest at Gather Restaurant. Enjoy music, delicious organic seasonal fare, and one another. 100% of your purchases will be donated to WEA! Email events@womensearthalliance.org for more information.

Thank you for joining us. Each time we gather, the world changes.