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.

OWAD WaSH In schools (1)

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.

OWAD Solar (1)
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.
OWAD Water Testing (1)
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!
OWAD Making bricks (1)
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.
OWAD Tank (1)
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!
OWAD tank complete (1)

Lessons from an Indigenous Woman’s Leadership

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Blog entry by Rucha Chitnis, India Director of Women’s Earth Alliance
Twitter: @ruchachitnis
dolores (1)

I had the great honor and joy to speak with Dolores Sales at the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples conference in San Francisco this month.  Dolores is an Indigenous Maya Mam woman from Guatemala, who is one of the leaders of National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos (CONIC).

CONIC promotes the livelihoods and community-led development efforts of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala through a grassroots movement that is also reclaiming their rights to land and other natural resources.  Dolores is also an active member of La Via Campesina (LVC), an international movement of peasant organizations, agricultural workers, fisher folks, pastoralists, rural women and Indigenous communities, who espouse food sovereignty as a principle to transform economic power and promote the rights and dignity of small producers.

Dolores is a part of the women’s leadership commission of LVC that is putting the agenda of gender equality and equity in the center of this vital movement, as well as eliminating all forms of violence against women.  One of the rallying calls of LVC is the unequivocal belief that small farmers can cool the Earth through the promotion of agroecology.

Dolores is a daughter of farmers, who worked the land as a young girl.  She is a part of a larger struggle that is demanding the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.  “Our people want land reforms and territorial defense,” she says.  Indigenous women are an integral part of this struggle and work directly with their communities to articulate their demands.  “People in my community have little land to cultivate and have to work on large farms and plantations to survive.”

She shares that one of the key demands of women in her community is to have land titles in their names.  Another major effort is to promote Indigenous women’s integrated view of development that is based on their cosmology and spiritual beliefs with a deep reverence for “Mother Earth.”  She passionately articulates that women’s critical contributions as food producers should be recognized in Indigenous communities and beyond.

I asked her to share her reflections on her personal leadership journey. “Poverty has educated me,” she says. “I learned to listen to our elders, and I have learned much by the collective mobilization of my community that is demanding its rights from the state.”   Dolores notes that donors can stand in solidarity with the efforts of Indigenous women by recognizing their role as key defenders of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the rights of Mother Earth.  Dolores also suggests that donors should support spaces for fair trade, as the production of small farmers “has no value under free trade.”

Her final words of wisdom remind us of our “shared responsibility” to protect and defend our planet in peril.  Thanks to the leadership of women, like Dolores, donors are slowly recognizing Indigenous women’s agency as grassroots changemakers impacting both—local and policy level shifts.

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Congratulations to GWWI Trainer Godliver Businge Graduating #1 in Her Class!

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Godliver lays foundation for the toilet slab
Godliver lays foundation for the toilet slab

A huge congratulations goes out to Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) Trainer Godliver Businge who recently graduated #1 in her class at St Joseph’s Technical Institute in Uganda – and incidentally, the ONLY WOMAN! Not only did Godliver receive top marks in Civil Engineering, on April 28, 2012, she gave the commencement speech attended by the Minister of Education, who soon after invited her to his office and offered her a job. She graciously declined because she has her sights on getting her degree and ultimately her PhD in Civil Engineering.

Godliver the Engineer


We met Godliver when she was attending the Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme where she was working towards a Certificate in Bricklaying and Concrete Practice. URDT trains people who live on less than $1 per day to take a visionary, entrepreneurial approach to developing their own lives, families and communities.  We hired her to train GWWI participants to build Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) toilets to meet the sanitation needs of their communities. Decked from head to toe in her construction coveralls and protective helmet, Godliver was an inspiration to the GWWI participants, as well as the students at the school where the VIP was built during our Women and Water Training in Kampala, Uganda in July 2011. The participants were very impressed by her meticulous and detailed instruction and her capacity to simplify the construction since many of the women had never picked up a shovel in their lives. One female student at the school declared “When I grow up, I want to be an engineer”!

Godliver’s mission is to engage more Ugandan women to pursue engineering and become professionals. She had a local radio show called “Ladies Night” and went into the villages to recruit more girls. Through her efforts, URDT saw a three-fold increase in enrollment to the URDT Girls School.

After graduation, Godliver was contracted to help design and construct  small scale hydro-electric schemes in Kasese and Fort Portal. They are working towards manufacturing the turbine locally to ensure that it can be maintained and repaired by local community members.

Godliver at her Graduation
Godliver at her Graduation


Like Global Women’s Water on FacebookAt the young age of 25, Godliver is a role model for all of us. A true Water Champion, Godliver is determined to pave the way for women to challenge gender stereotypes, professionalize their services and take the lead in an issue that affects them deeply – water and sanitation.

Climate Change Resilience Begins With Women

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By: Rucha Chitnis

Women farmers, like Manju, play a crucial role in building the resilience of their communities in the face of climate change.
Women farmers, like Manju, play a crucial role in building the resilience
of their communities in the face of climate change.

Manju Devi is a farmer, a single mother of three and a dedicated field worker with a local grassroots organization called Nav Jagriti in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. Manju is on a mission to build the self-reliance of women in her community who are affected by poverty, food insecurity and climate change. Women farmers in her community are particularly affected by floods and prolonged waterlogging issues.

Manju was one of the participants of the Women, Food Security and Climate Change Training program that was designed and coordinated by Women’s Earth Alliance’s partner, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), a grassroots organization working with small and landless women farmers through a people-centered approach focusing on their participation and empowerment for sustainable development. GEAG’s efforts also target poverty and hunger reduction by connecting women farmers with sustainable agricultural training, advocacy and networking support.

The goal of this training was to facilitate a regional exchange between women farmers and rural NGO workers from four flood-affected states to share their personal experiences with climate change and its impact on their health, livelihoods and food security. The training equipped women with information about sustainable agricultural practices, such as mixed farming growing diverse food crops on small farms and making natural pesticides and fertilizers using farm inputs.  Participants also learned about local and regional campaigns to advance women’s rights as farmers. Manju was particularly inspired meeting women from a community in Sahranpur, who were successful in winning back their forest rights access from a corrupt contractor who had exploited them for years. The women shared with, much pride, how they finally won their rights through a long sustained joint solidarity struggle.

Manju was clearly inspired and invigorated by the training, and she returned to her community with a plan to make a difference. First, she set up her own organic kitchen garden as a demonstration site to show women farmers how they could grow a variety of vegetables right at home even if their farms were flooded. She went on to organize 11 women’s groups, training 144 farmers on seed-saving practices and growing a variety of vegetables and grains using mixed farming techniques. Finally, she educated women on their rights as farmers and shared information on beneficial government programs that women could access to improve their economic and food security.


“My vision is that women in my community stand on their own feet and embrace organic farming practices.  I am leading by example to show how this can be achieved,” Manju proudly beamed.

Women farmers, like Manju, clearly demonstrate how they play a crucial role in building the leadership capacities of other vulnerable women in their communities who are acutely affected by climate challenges, such as floods and droughts.  As cultural and natural resource stewards of their communities, they are positioned to make a difference by using their traditional ecological knowledge systems of farming, seed saving of robust indigenous crops like millets, which require little to no water for irrigation, and by engaging actively in the political and civic affairs of their communities.

Farmers like Manju recognize that one sure way of increasing the resilience of rural communities in the face of climate change is to end the inequalities and discrimination that rural women face so that they can access critical information, useful agriculture extension training services and increase their participation in disaster management programs.

Transforming Economic Power, Transforming Ourselves


Blog entry by Rucha Chitnis, India Director of Women’s Earth Alliance
Twitter: @ruchachitnis
I had the honor of attending the 12thAWID Forum held in Istanbul last month. This was an astonishing convergence of nearly 2,500 grassroots activists, scholars, feminist economists, donors, artists and writers. We gathered to learn and share how global economic forces are impacting women’s human rights and our planet.  The Forum–Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice was a gathering to reimagine and reshape an unequal global economic paradigm that has further marginalized those who are already acutely affected by injustices and poverty — women of color, indigenous women and those impacted by militarism.
It is impossible to summarize the sophisticated level of analysis or share the diversity and vitality of the myriad plenaries, breakout sessions, evening events and solidarity roundtables that went unabated for four days. But here are a few personal learnings, takeaways and “Aha” moments that I wanted to share with you.
  • “Another US is necessary for another world to be possible”: Maria Poblet, Executive Director of Causa Justa-Just Cause, poetically emphasized that those of us who live in the “belly of the beast” have a responsibility to build solidarity and joint struggle with international movements.  Maria also underscored the need to expand and deepen the political vision of the Occupy movement, which is “largely white men” to include minorities and people of color to build a grassroots, multi-racial and generational movement that asserts a shared agenda for economic justice.
  • “The comfort zone is the zone of prejudice”: Boaventura de Sousa Santos, internationally renowned scholar and one of the leading organizers of the World Social Forum, shared the need for the convergence of movements and elimination of stereotypes and prejudices. He also called for increased inter-cultural exchanges to share different concepts and ideas of equality. He observed that the feminist movement was best in combining urgency with a call for broader “civilizational change.”
  • Embrace a feminist perspective to Economics: Rebecca Grynspan, working with UNDP Costa Rica, emphasized that we need to promote feminist economics and put issues of equity and equality in the center of the agenda and discourse. It was powerful to hear her emphasize that economic analysis needs to integrate paid and unpaid work of women into the indicators and that an inter-disciplinary approach is crucial to have a more gendered analysis of economics.  Economists also need to begin to take stock of natural ecosystems, the extraction of natural resources and the externalization of costs on the environment and communities by corporations through degradation and pollution. We need to bring women’s economic rights into the larger human rights discourse.
  • Think Eco-systemic not individualistic Approach:  Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a renowned indigenous activist from the Philippines, shared that the long struggles of indigenous women and the current ecological, economic and cultural crises, are an outcome of a capitalist, patriarchal system that has been reinforced for hundreds of years.  She reminded us that indigenous women are living in some of the last intact ecological areas, a sign that they embrace values of reciprocity, solidarity and live in harmony with Nature.  A reminder that indigenous peoples have their own indicators of well-being beyond mainstream monetary indicators and that cross-cultural exchanges could foster learning from indigenous peoples cultural and spiritual practices.

FORUM ended with a solidarity march by participants from around the world

  • FORUM ended with a solidarity march
    by participants from around the world
  •  Embrace diversity and complexities: Many Forum participants urged the need to embrace the complexities and the diversity of feminist movements. We need to look at the intersections of race, class, age, religion, and sexualities and to engage in more inter-cultural dialogues and exchanges. This should allow us to challenge our own perspectives and have a more thoughtful and unified analysis of the issues facing women.
  • “Disease of “projectitis” affects long-term impact of our work”: Joanna Kerr of Action Aid reminded us that there is no magic bullet for development, and this was powerfully highlighted by one of my favorite breakout sessions, Can Monitoring and Evaluation be Feminist?. The panel was moderated by feminist activist and scholar, Srilatha Batliwala. Participants candidly shared their challenges in using complex and stringent monitoring and evaluation (M&E) strategies, which reduced and simplified “change” into quantifiable metrics.  The shared learning from this session was that donors and funders need to create a safe space for evaluations, where women’s groups have a sense of personal ownership to advance their programmatic and strategic goals, rather than experience evaluations like a performance review.
  • Climate change resiliency begins with women: At a session where Women’s Earth Alliance partnered with our sister-organization, IDEX, Luciana Baustista Pedro, an indigenous woman from Mexico, who founded a group called Nepi Behna (Women of Dignity), shared how women are building their resilience in face of environmental and climate challenges by installing rainwater harvesting tanks, using wood-saving stoves and setting up women’s cooperatives through a Fair Trade Artisanship Program. Other Forum sessions also shared examples of how rural women are leading the way for food sovereignty by reviving traditional organic farming and seed saving practices, by asserting their rights as farmers and by playing a key role in large peasant social movements like the Via Campesina.