Preparation Days-Global Women’s Water Initiative West African Women and Water Training
By Mariah Maggio
The latest adventure of GWWI’s Women and Water Training program in bringing powerful African women together to create solutions for water issues has begun!
The first steps when we arrive in the host country are to connect with our host country partners, search for materials, coordinate logistics of travel for the participants and ensure everything is set up and operating smoothly by the time the participants arrive.
The GWWI Women and Water Trainings have a component which aims to teach the women participants about appropriate technologies through practical hands-on learning. The West African Women and Water Training gives the women the opportunity to learn one of three technologies (BioSand water filters, composting toilets, rainwater harvesting), along with the construction of Solar CooKits and water testing with the Portable Microbiology Laboratory.
So the challenge lies in locating, purchasing and delivering all of these materials in one week! The days were full, often eating the noon meal at 3:00 p.m., hot, hectic and absolutely productive! This was due in large part to the efforts, attitude and graciousness of one woman, Cecilia Mensah, who works with ProNet Accra, our on the ground partner for the Women and Water Training. She and I spent the day together, driving around Accra in her car, checking off lists and ending the day with a call to plan for the next day and say good night. Her daughter, Samuela, selflessly gave us her mother for five straight long days and we are truly grateful! Here they are below sitting down on our last day of shopping waiting for the welder to finish making our BioSand filter mold.
If you have never had the experience of having a personal shopper I suggest you try it here! Start with a list of the things you need, locate a shop that looks reputable that you pick at random or have been pointed to, get rushed out of the hot sun and into a chair, the list is whisked out of your hands and two or three young men are employed to rush around, appearing and then disappearing from sight, finding all of your materials and adjusting them when it’s not quite what you wanted. All this while you are chatting with the store keeper, sipping icy “pure water” out of a 500 ml plastic sachet and eating fresh mango or pineapple pieces out of a plastic bag (which you got from the lady walking halfway down the street who had the tray of fruit carefully balanced on her head)! I did at one point, while navigating the narrow lanes of Accra’s central market, move the 20 liter buckets we had just purchased onto the top of my head, purely out of necessity for trying to squeeze through the crowds, and what a reaction I received from the women to see this white lady carrying her goods in the African way!
So we are prepared and ready to receive these women and teach them the a few simple, appropriate technologies which they will be able to take back to their communities and implement!
The anticipation and preparation has been building for a long time for this day! The first day was filled with gems, from stories to realizations and lessons learned, shared by the women participants, organizers and trainers!
- “The only water source in this community is like Milo (the local brand of chocolate milk powder); all you need is milk and sugar to take it.”
- “I want to use the school children as agents of change to help the community change their attitudes and behaviors.”
- “When you start in development another issue always rises up…we were waiting for a savior to come (to help us) and it happened with the announcement of this Women and Water Training.”
- The babies are drinking this dirty water when they are only two days old; tears almost flew from my eyes when I heard about it.”
- “These horrible water situations are keeping women’s attention when they should be using that time to be involved in economic activity.”
- “The people in Lagos (the capital of Nigeria) run their taps when they aren’t even using the water and they don’t think about the people 5 kilometers away that don’t have water…wastage in one area is a lack in another.”
- “I was humbled when I learned that not only was the water coming from my household tap in the United States, but also the water in my toilet, was drinkable!”
The morning hours of the Training are filled with sessions on WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and action planning while the afternoons are devoted to practical technology training sessions. We discussed as a group, with brilliant insights and sharing from all of the women, the challenges and opportunities of African women in relation to water and the effects of climate change on water and their environments.
And as we fall asleep tonight the rain has begun to fall here in Ghana!