Mary Saves $1000s With Clean Water

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

Topics: , , ,

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 on Wednesdays: Kenya to Enact Rainwater Harvesting Act – Great Opportunity for GWWI Grads

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

Topics: ,

Posted by Gemma Bulos

Great news for GWWI Kenya Grads! According to the Kenyan Ministry of Water Deputy Director of Water Resources Juma Omondi, the Kenya Rainwater Harvesting Act

will be enacted by the end of 2012. The law will advocate for the integration of household and industrial rainwater harvesting (RWH) technologies. And Nairobi will join the likes of Indian cities New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore requiring new homes to have rainwater harvesting infrastructure before the building can be approved.

Building roof catchment and ferro cement for school
Building roof catchment and ferro cement
for school
How does this open opportunities for graduates of the Global Women’s Water Initiative Training Program?
GWWI teaches women to build simple water and sanitation technologies to provide clean water in their communities. One of the technologies most in demand is rainwater harvesting and safe water storage.
Women in Africa and in other developing regions can sometimes walk up to 8 hours per day looking for water. On top of that, they have to carry up to 44lbs of water on their heads, shoulders and backs for use at home for cooking, drinking and washing. Collecting rainwater and storing it for future use can alleviate some, if not all of that burden depending on the rainfall and the size of the storage tank.
 
Rose makes an interlocking stabilized soil block (ISSB)
Rose makes an interlocking stabilized
soil block (ISSB)

This past year, some GWWI graduates learned to build roof catchments and a storage tank made out of interlocking stabilized blocks (ISSB). The ISSB tank is a relatively new technology that is now gaining traction in Kenya and the East Africa region because it costs less and is more durable than the other alternatives like a polytank (plastic) and ferrocement tank. The ISSB is made out of marram (orange clay/soil), sand, a little cement and water. This mixture is compressed in a block making machine that requires no electricity just human sweat. It’s also manufactured in Nairobi (Kenya’s capital city), further keeping the construction and material costs down. Most simple brick making techniques require drying in the sun, whereas the ISSB is ready for use in 24 hours regardless of the weather. What makes this technology cutting edge is the shape of the bricks. Unlike traditional bricks that are flat and rectangular in shape, the ISSB bricks are shaped to interlock like a puzzle, which reduces the amount of cement for bonding and creates a stronger foundation and structure for the tank.

Rounded ISSBs for tanks
Rounded ISSBs for tanks
With this new policy development, GWWI grads can potentially provide professional construction and education services to meet the water needs of their communities. GWWI is excited to support our graduates to lead the way towards introducing cutting edge technologies that use local materials, require no electricity and can be built by WOMEN!

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays:  UCOBAC Receives the Gift of Hygiene from CNN Hero, Derek Kayonga!  

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

Topics: , ,

The Global Women’s Water Initiative is thrilled to share this video featuring CNN Hero Derek Kayonga of the Global Soap Project (GSP) providing UCOBAC with recycled soap thanks to GWWI Fellow, Lily Dimling!
A primary goal of GWWI is to create an international network of women leaders in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector providing a platform for learning and sharing.  When Lily, a leader at Global Soap Project, was selected to participate in the GWWI flagship Fellowship program, one of her main objectives was to learn more about WASH implementation on the ground so GSP could expand their services through WASH education initiatives to supplement their mission to distribute soap. In summer of 2011, the GWWI Fellowship Program mobilized a global team of women graduate students and development professionals to gain a holistic and hands-on training in international development, WASH-related education and appropriate technology.

UCOBAC is one of the two returning organizations that participated in our 2008 and 2010 Women and Water trainings. Led by Solome Mukisa, UCOBAC provides services to improve the welfare of vulnerable children in Uganda through trainings of relevant actors, advocacy and networking using community-based initiatives. GWWI has since sponsored four UCOBAC members to attend GWWI trainings who have learned how to build technologies addressing all three major water challenges – water access (rainwater harvesting techniques), water quality (various water treatments like the Biosand Filter, Solar Cookit ) and sanitation (Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines).  With these skills and technologies, UCOBAC is on their way to becoming a full service Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) service center.
GWWI knew this would be a perfect opportunity for the Grassroots Teams to be able to partner with an organization like GSP and for Lily to learn nuanced community strategies and witness first hand the challenges grassroots women and communities face. And as it turns out, it was beyond perfect! What an amazing gift for UCOBAC not only to receive soap for their health clinic and other HIV/AIDS orphan programs, but also to have been featured in Derek’s Introduction video for CNN Heroes! Look out for, 2008 graduate and UCOBAC Executive Director, Solome Mukisa at about the 1 minute mark!  Much of the footage is taken in the slum where UCOBAC offers free health services and the site of the UCOBACs first toilet that the community, Lily and others helped build.

Let’s hear it for Water Heros and Sheros bringing hope where it is needed.

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GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Celebrating GWWI Water Champions on International Women’s Day

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

Topics: , ,

GWWI Women &Water training 2008 with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai

GWWI Women &Water training 2008 with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and we here at the Global Women’s Water Initiative can’t imagine a better way to celebrate than to highlight the work of the GWWI grassroots teams and Fellows! It has been 9 months since the GWWI East African year long training program launched in July 2011 and since then fifteen water programs in three countries have spawned!

When the Global Women’s Water Initiative was first birthed in 2008 by Gemma Bulos, Jan Hartsough and Melinda Kramer and their respective organizations (A Single Drop, Crabgrass and Women’s Earth Alliance), we set out to find powerful grassroots women leaders and coordinate trainings to equip them with tools and skills to address one of the most pressing global issues of this century – access to clean water and sanitation. Since then we’ve met, learned from and shared with who we believe are some of the most inspirational women in Sub-Saharan Africa who are making significant contributions to their community. Many teams came to us with little or no experience in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, but had missions that were focused on the empowerment of women tackling issues such as community health, environmental degradation, land rights and poverty.
The teams who applied and were selected to participate in our GWWI trainings knew that their programs to address these issues needed to be supplemented by women’s access to clean water and sanitation.  As Kofi Annan stated
The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights.” – Kofi Annan

Since 2008, GWWI has supported women who have never picked up a shovel in their lives and watched them transform into powerful WASH agents of change in their communities! Since then,

  • 45 two-person Teams have participated in three GWWI training learning WASH Education and Technology Implementation
  • GWWI teams have built technologies providing over 6000 people with improved access to clean water and/or sanitation and thousands more have benefitted from their WASH education seminars
  • 1/3 of the programs are income-generating
  • GWWI graduates have professionalized their services been hired as WASH Education facilitators and/or technology implementers
If you’ve been reading our blogs, you’ve read about Catherine Wanjohi and Susan Njeri Karaja of LifeBloom who uplift ex-commercial sex workers and create alternative livelihood programs for them. LifeBloom has integrated the WASH technologies and strategies they learned from GWWI as part of their vocational education. They have since been hired to install Biosand Filters into a women’s prison in Kenya. A hearty congratulations to Catherine who has since been accepted at Kenyatta University pursuing her PHD degree in Women and Development, specifically focusing on issues of the sex workers community in relation to development.
You’ve also met Rose Wamalwa, one of GWWIs African Fellows who has been our ear to the ground and an incredible support for the GWWI Kenya and Tanzania teams.  She recently founded Women in Water and Natural Resource Conservation in Kenya and credits GWWIs mentorship as the impetus to start her own organization.  And we offer her another heartfelt congratulations for Rose’s nomination as a Darwin Scholar to participate in the Monitoring and Communicating Biodiversity program hosted by the Field Studies Council in Oxford, UK.
We invite you to read more about all of the women who have come through our program! You can read about the teams from our blogs throughout the years.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks to meet more of the GWWI graduates and Fellows in our GWWI Women and Water on Wednesday series!
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GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: It’s All About Relationships

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

Topics: , ,

Lily Dimling of Global Soap Project Shares Her Experience as a GWWI Fellow

When I spent two months last summer as a fellow with the Global Women’s Water Initiative in Uganda, I hoped it would not be what a colleague termed as “drive by” international development. I have a MS in sustainable development, and nothing pains me more than to see Westerners create further dependency in the communities they are trying to help.

I wasn’t sure how the “ripple effect “would play out. But as I sat in the conference room with this group of amazing women talking pee and poo, a subject matter that disgusts most people but excites this group, I thought to myself that the experience needed to play out further for me. I didn’t obsess about this too much. I had work to do- communities to bond with, women to support, latrines and water tanks to build.

Water Testing with colleagues (Ruth, Lilly and Immaculate)
Water Testing with colleagues (Ruth, Lilly and Immaculate)


Imagine spending 24/7 with 50 strangers for two weeks of learning, training, building, discussing prescribed topics, sharing our stories, eating, taking walks, having tea breaks, chatting, laughing, dancing, singing, taking shopping and beach excursions, and more dancing and singing. Wow, what an experience! I feel like I have 50 new friends. I have heard so many personal stories that have amazed and moved me—stories of resilience, strength, perseverance, tragedy, joy and accomplishment.
Back in July I wrote about how the Training in Kampala impacted me.

What do we all have in common? Our ages range from 23 to 67. We come from 6 different countries. The truth is, we have bonded over poo, safe water, and hygiene. And female empowerment to make these things happen.
Elizabeth (Advanced Training Participant), teaching pathways of water contamination during the Summer Training
Elizabeth (Advanced Training Participant), teaching pathways of water contamination during the Summer Training


When we started to build a VIP latrine, can you picture 12 women arguing over whose turn it is to saw wood and mix concrete? The enthusiasm and energy were amazing. But the challenges we faced are normal fare here. The most obvious are funding and lack of proper tools and quality materials. We used the equivalent of a nail file to cut through a metal rod. We used a machete to sculpt the wood hole that has curves. I was dreaming about powertools! For ease, for accuracy and to save time, but with inconsistent power, such tools are a distant dream. Adapting is key in these sorts of projects. You make do with what you have.

Lilly and Zeinab helping to lay the foundation of a ventilated improved pit  (VIP) latrine during the Training
Lilly and Zeinab helping to lay the foundation of a ventilated improved pit  (VIP) latrine during the Training
All we accomplished was building the cement base of a latrine, but we felt we’d climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Me and my awesome new friends.
Completed Rainwater Harvesting Tank at KIDA in Kitojo, Uganda
Completed Rainwater Harvesting Tank at KIDA in Kitojo, Uganda
As I was preparing to leave after 2 months in Uganda, a couple of the other fellows and I were struggling to figure out just how these relationships would continue and thrive despite the distance. As fellows we were assigned teams to follow for a year to make sure progress was made implementing their water and sanitation technologies. We sincerely wanted to fulfill our promises, but we were not sure how.It all boils down to the relationships one builds. I was one of two fellows who did not bring a computer with me. And though I begged the others to use theirs to check my email, I believe that not constantly being in touch with life back home allowed me to really experience being where I was. In the scheme of things, two months is really a short period of time. But in such a situation you somehow come to know people deeper in a shorter period of time.

Back at home things at my job were going very well. Someone had replaced me for the two months I was away but I slipped back into my role as Operations Manager at the Global Soap Project with relative ease. I decided my first order of business was to raise money for more water tests for the community of Kitojo. We performed them with about 30 community members to see if their water sources were contaminated and, sad to say, many were. They asked me for more tests so they could share this valuable information with more members in their community. We discussed why contaminated water was harmful and ways we could mitigate the health risks. By October I had sent $750 to be spent on more tests. The tests would be purchased from a Kenyan woman who was also at the conference, Mama Solar, who distributes these tests. I was promised that the water testing kits would be accompanied by discussions on what to do if your water source is contaminated, empowering people with solutions.

Water Testing in Kitojo, Uganda
Water Testing in Kitojo, Uganda

On relatively short notice CNN told Derreck they were hoping to film him distributing soap in Uganda. Lightbulb! One of the projects I worked on last summer was a VIP latrine being built in a Kampala slum with the guidance of local NGO partner UCOBAC. While there, I promised I would try and get soap for the handwashing station next to the toilet. This turned out to be the way. UCOBAC graciously agreed to assist and Derreck left for Uganda with just over a 1,000 bars of soap for the slum, school and women’s group UCOBAC works with. He discussed with each group the importance of handwashing and hygiene for good health.Then the founder of the nonprofit I work for, Derreck Kayongo, was named a top 10 CNN Hero for 2011. As a former refugee from Uganda, he noticed the waste from the gently used bars of soap from hotel stays. Knowing firsthand how many people could be positively impacted by access to this resource, he started partnering with a few Atlanta hotels to capture their discarded soap, clean it and form it into new bars. In the two years since its inception, Global Soap project has made over 100,000 bars that have been sent vulnerable populations including refugees, orphans, disaster victims and prisoners in eighteen countries worldwide.

Another contact I met last summer who lives in Kenya and has an NGO has asked for 100,000 bars for schools, an orphanage and a female prison her group supports. This is the next project on my list.
And so, although it was a two month experience in Uganda last summer, these relationships will continue……

Lilly Dimling, February 15, 2012