Women leaders in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

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In Africa and across the developing world, it is common for women and girls to spend up to six hours daily collecting water, time they could spend in school or working. The result is perpetuated cycles of gender inequality and poverty.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) combine as global crisis that leaves 768 million without clean water and 2.5 billion, over a third of the world’s population, without access to sanitation. Yet, within Africa alone, women are making a huge impact on these issues starting from their communities and reaching on up. Wash Advocates’ website highlights eight women across Africa who are making waves. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia has brought WASH to Liberia and is the Honorary President of Water and Sanitation for Africa. President Joyce Banda of Malawi, has created a national initiative on maternal health and clean places for expectant mothers to wait until delivery with clean water, sanitation and access to health care. Six other women, working in West Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria, are creating initiatives and organizations that are just as important.

To read more about these incredible women, read the full article here.

Remembering Becky Tarbotton


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Women’s Earth Alliance joins the environmental community in mourning the passing and honoring the life of Rebecca Tarbotton, Rainforest Action Network‘s executive director, who died on December 26th in Mexico.

It is difficult to capture Becky’s spirit in words.  Those who knew her, admired and adored her for her vivacious energy, her welcoming spirit, and her uncompromising approach to her work.  She was a true leader who met seemingly insurmountable environmental challenges head-on, and won.  “We’re not the Rainforest Negotiation Network,” she said, “we’re the Rainforest Action Network.”  This past year, under her leadership, RAN saw one of its biggest wins ever — getting the Disney Corporation to commit to eliminating the use of paper sourced from Indonesia’s rainforests.

Becky’s influence and presence as a woman leader on the world stage was grounded in her years of working alongside grassroots women organizing in places like Ladakh, India.  There, she supported a local women’s farming alliance to grow its membership from 7 to 4,000.

Of that time, Becky said: “working with those women, helping them build alternatives to the western development model that was being imposed on their communities, was a foundational experience for me. It showed me that local wisdom is a powerful tool for change and that true solutions, when grounded in deep respect for cultural traditions, ecological wisdom and creativity can both improve quality of life and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.”

We at Women’s Earth Alliance draw deep inspiration from these words, and from the wisdom and commitment they represent.  All of our hearts ache at the loss of this brilliant, dedicated, joyful woman.  We persist in our work with renewed commitment in 2013, so that we may contribute to the realization of Becky’s dream of a peaceful and sustainable human existence on earth.

To make a donation to RAN in honor of Becky, visit RAN’s website

THE WAVE of H2ope!

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When Grace Mushongi came to the GWWI training in Kampala in Summer of 2011, she was working as a community organizer and Board Member for Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association. Grace brings groups of women together to discuss development projects and increase women’s participation in the management of their livelihoods. Prior to the GWWI Women and Water Training, BUWEA assisted women with funding for purchase of cows, goats, pigs, and other supplies in order to maintain a method of increasing their household income, and allowing their children to attend school. When Grace returned home from the GWWI training with her partner Rachel Ndyamukama, they were able to introduce water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education for improved health; water testing techniques so they can identify contaminated water sources and introduce affordable ways to clean their water; and rain harvesting technologies to help women have access to water closer to their homes instead of walking upwards of 8 hours to fetch water.

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Since the training and with GWWI’s ongoing on-site and virtual support, Grace has helped train women in her community to build 5 rainwater harvesting systems with tanks providing clean water to over 1000 people in Kasangi, Tanzania. Grace not only has the passion and the drive, she now has the solutions to bring much needed change in her community! Grace and Rachel are just one of the ten GWWI Teams who are part of GWWIs 2013 Program Women-led WASH Service Center Training, where they deepening and strengthening their capacity as WASH technicians, educators, facilitators and solutionaries!

Congrats to Gemma Bulos, GWWI Director Selected as Stanford Social Entrepreneur Fellow!

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A huge congratulations to GWWI Director Gemma Bulos for being selected as 1 of 3 people from around the globe to be a 2013 Stanford Social Entrepreneur Fellow (SEERS Program). This highly competitive program selects social entrepreneurs working on the ground bringing innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.
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Launched in July 2011, the program recognized the need to bring a practitioner’s perspective into the classroom at Stanford University and infuse the research agenda of Stanford’s scholars with a first-hand account of the challenges confronting the increasingly interdependent and connected world. Faculty and researchers at Stanford are eager to access the valuable experience of global practitioners whose insights into the reality of democracy and development on the ground can enrich and deepen their scholarship and theoretical work. Similarly, the creativity of these social entrepreneurs can inspire, provoke, and mobilize the immensely talented young people who study at Stanford and help them to engage even more purposefully with the world.
Gemma will be mentoring students, auditing classes to strengthen GWWIs programs and teaching workshops in Social Entrepreneurship from her experience in East Africa with GWWI and in the Philippines with A Single Drop for Safe Water. Gemma’s work in the Philippines developing an innovative approach to community driven water solutions garnered her top awards from renowned Social Entrepreneur organizations such as Echoing Green, Schwab Foundation, Ernst Young and the Tech Awards. Her breadth of experience has also been recognized by Reuters’/Alertnet where she was named one of the Top 10 Water Solutions Trailblazers in the world and by Filipina Women’s Network as one the 100 Most Influential Thought Leaders and Innovator Filipinas in the USA.
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GWWI Graduates Launch the First Local Chapter in Moyo, Uganda

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Martha and Angella have been friends since they were young children. In 1979 during the Liberation War in Uganda, most people of Moyo, the town on the northernmost tip of Uganda, had to flee their homeland across the border of Sudan to safety. Angella and Martha’s families with their young children left with only their documents, no money and whatever belongings they could carry on their backs. They walked across the border into Sudan and lived as refugees in separate areas wherever they could find shelter.  After 8 years, during the resettlement they had a teary and bittersweet reunion when they returned to find that their town of Moyo had been completely destroyed. No houses or buildings anywhere.

As they restarted their lives back home, they were committed to help rebuild their community. They helped start the Marindi Cooperative Society, an organized group composed of women and men to carry out small scale credit and savings services to its members.

Angella and Martha, as a retired nurse and midwife, respectively, wanted to provide more services to improve the health of their community.  In 2011, they were selected to participate in the GWWI Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda. When they learned about WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and how to build WASH technologies, they knew that this was one way they could meet their goals. Because lack of access to water was a very big issue for Moyo citizens, they elected to learn how to build rainwater harvesting systems (RWH) with an ISSB tank (interlocking stabilized soil block) to provide water to their community.

When they brought the RWH technology back to Moyo, their organization was so impressed with it and their capacity to build it, they supported them to build a RWH system and tank at a local school serving over hundreds of students and some neighboring families. After seeing how easy it was to build and training other Moyo women to be able to construct the technology, the MCS chair helped the women members form a new organization called the Moyo Women’s Water Initiative (MWWI), inspired by the work of the Global Women’s Water Initiative.

The first order of business was to mobilize over $1200US from the community to buy an ISSB machine so they can make their own bricks, sell them and construct more tanks. The 30 women members of the MWWI have registered with the government and are now well on their way to realizing their collective dream!

And don’t forget:

Thurs, Oct 25 in Berkeley, CA
“Women Making Waves: GWWI Report Back from Africa”