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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.

WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Training Retreat Gaining National Attention

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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The WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Project, partnership between WEA and Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) in Kaduna, Nigeria, just completed its first of two week-long training retreats and The Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves featured the project its newsletter this month!

This [training] will help empower fellow women leaders in their communities, and break the structural barriers which limit the success of renewable energy initiatives around the world. This initiative is highly commended by the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

We are honored to have this work highlighted by an amazing organization, and one whose own work is so inspiring, like the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves! Read the entire article here.

The 15 cookstove teams are now back home, gathering information to build their business models during  the final training retreat at the end of May!

 

 

Stewards of Food Culture and Biodiversity: Voices from the Northeast

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

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In her piece for Vikalp Sangam, Rucha Chitnis shines her light on the challenges faced by communities in Northeast India to preserve the region’s rich agrobiodiversity and food culture.

“A journey on a food trail in the region [also] reveals a rich agrobiodiversity and a unique food culture that has been stewarded by local communities–from the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam to remote mountainous tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. In the face of modernization, mining, oil exploration and escalating deforestation, both, the biodiversity of species and food crops, including wild edibles, are threatened.”

As Rucha explains, since forests are a vital source of food and indigenous crops, new economic policies supporting large infrastructure projects in the area could pose a direct threat to small scale farmers.

The article uplifts the voices of four activists and advocates working for ecological justice in their communities of Northeast India. Their work takes different angles but it is no coincidence that each is concerned with empowering women to raise their voices and be recognized as key players in ecological justice. We are especially excited to hear from Mary Beth Sanate of Rural Women’s Upliftment Society (RWUS). RWUS works to promote sustainable livelihoods in the face of conflict and climate change, and was a WEA South Asia Small Grants Initiative partner. Mary Beth and RWUS’s work advocating policy and social change on behalf of women’s rights continues to be an inspiration to us!

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Mary Beth Sanate of RWUS (third from right). Photo: Rucha Chitnis.

“We need a strong gender policy in the state and women’s participation in the development of climate change policies is key…women are slowly realizing that the customary law is discriminatory. It needs to be reformed so that women can have equal access to property, political participation and other resources.” — Mary Beth Sanate

Read the full article here.

President Barack Obama Says, “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like”

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In June, WEA was honored to have our Leadership Board Member Pandora Thomas represent us at the #StateofWomen Summit in Washington, D.C., bringing our (and your!) voice to this historic gathering.

During the summit, President Obama made his now-famous declaration that, “I may have a few more grey hairs than I did 7 years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like.” Now, in an exclusive piece written for Glamour, he expands on that statement, diving into being a feminist, a father, and the President of the United States — and how it’s all interconnected.

Credit: Glamour
Credit: Glamour

The progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist…

So we shouldn’t downplay how far we’ve come. That would do a disservice to all those who spent their lives fighting for justice. At the same time, there’s still a lot of work we need to do to improve the prospects of women and girls here and around the world. And while I’ll keep working on good policies—from equal pay for equal work to protecting reproductive rights—there are some changes that have nothing to do with passing new laws.

In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves.

Read the full article here.