Celebrating the 100-year Anniversary of International Women’s Day
Rucha Chitnis, India Program Director, with women farmers in Uttar Pradesh
Today marks the 100-year anniversary of International Women’s Day. With ripples of change created by powerful movements world wide, our global community has come far since 1911. And, there is still a long way to go. The UN recently recognized that “longstanding inequalities in the distribution of resources have placed women at a disadvantage in participating in and benefitting from development processes.” This is despite significant research that places women’s empowerment as a necessary condition for healthy, politically stable, economically sound, and environmentally safe societies.
This is why we created the Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) – an organization that creates innovative solutions to issues of water, food, land and climate through collaborative initiatives that train, connect, and empower emerging women leaders.
Here’s the kind of change our programs create on a regular basis in the regions where we work: Lucy Mulenkei was a 2008 Global Women’s Water Initiative Training participant. Lucy’s home is in Northern Kenya, a drought-prone region experiencing the acute effects of climate change. Lucy took her rainwater harvesting, WASH education, water testing, and solar pasteurization skills straight to her community, where she organized women’s groups to launch tree planting projects, built rainwater harvesting systems, and created safe water supply for her community of 25,000 people. Every skill Lucy learned was multiplied by the dozens of other people she trained. In December, Lucy was even featured in Newsweek Magazine for her environmental leadership, alongside WEA allies Dr. Wangari Maathai and Vandana Shiva. This is the ripple effect in action.
Over the last 5 years, WEA’s Africa Program has forged partnerships with 30 community-based organizations across 11 African nations providing water technology training, economic development, and seed capital to many African communities through the Global Women’s Water Initiative. Our North America Program mobilizes support for the environmental justice campaigns of our 12 Native American partner organizations through WEA’s Advocacy Network of legal, policy and business experts. Our newest India Program will provide funding and training on rights education, ecological farming and appropriate technology to grassroots Indian women leaders to improve food and economic security of local communities, preserve the environment and traditional knowledge systems, and build political will.
Why the need?
• Women are water harvesters; but are not consulted about water projects. Women and children in Africa alone spend approximately 40 billion hours every year fetching and carrying water –Yet they are rarely consulted during the implementation of ‘improved water projects’ in their communities, resulting in outside technologies that are not designed to meet their needs.
• Women are significant food producers, yet they struggle to access land. Women are the stewards of natural resources, and major participants in global agriculture production, yet only 1% of the world’s women own land and less than 5% of women receive farming extension training.
Addressing these issues is a matter of survival, yet for decades traditional development programs have invested billions of dollars trying to “fix” these problems often without consulting women, the core stakeholders in communities. This has led to years of failed projects. Although women are cited as “target beneficiaries” women’s critical contributions to food security, water access, and community health, is overlooked.
WEA’s collaborative work addresses these issues through partnership and listening, and is innovating new models for community development that are based on an investment in women. When trained, connected and empowered, women become positioned to guide the development of their communities away from degradation and dependency on outside international aid institutions towards self-reliance.
On this day, we are honored to be another ripple in the legacy of women and courageous men who have been making waves and turning the tide toward a world we are proud to leave for future generations. Stay tuned in the coming months for stories of hope from inspiring women attending WEA training programs in Africa, India and North America.
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