“Can you train my wife to do what you do?” was a common question Grace Mushongi of Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association would hear from some of the local men while she was building rainwater harvesting systems and tanks in villages around Bukoba, Tanzania. Even her husband bragged to the masons who were building their house to seek help from his wife, because after all, she was a mason too!
But if you’d have met Grace two and half years ago, she would not have been able to tell you how to mix cement, explain the elements of a rainwater harvesting system or test water. Since participating in the Global Women’s Water Initiative Training Program, Grace and her partner Rachel Nyamukama have been able to build water technologies that have already provided over 2000 people with water in her region. Prior to Grace and Rachel’s efforts, women would have to walk upwards of 8 hours a day to fetch water at the dirty river.
Grace and Rachel have learned how to build two kinds of water tanks, a variety of water catchment systems, two kinds of toilets as well as how to manufacture soap, shampoo, reusable sanitary pads and toilet digesters to sell locally. They are continuing their WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) training in April where they will learn how to make and build different water treatment options to clean contaminated water. They are both well on their way to being able to provide full water and sanitation services in their community to address water access, water quality and sanitation.
But Grace and Rachel couldn’t have done it alone. With the support of Women’s Global Connection, a foundation in Texas, and their biggest cheerleader, Patricia Lieveld a professor at a local university, Grace and Rachel were able to raise over $20,000 to cover the costs of their participation in the training, seed grants and technology construction.
When we visited Bukoba, wherever we went, everyone called Grace their ‘local water champion’ – because she didn’t just build technologies, she taught other women how to build them and encouraged people to treat their water and wash their hands.
“I used to think that you had to be educated to be a trainer! But look at me now!” Grace told GWWI.
Grace now wants to have a greater impact! She has since enrolled herself in school to learn how to speak English so that she can train people in surrounding regions.
Grace is an amazing example that GWWI is all about – supporting women to unleash their strengths and providing them with the tools to step into their role as water champions!