In rural Kenya, lack of clean water is often the primary barrier to girls' education. Many Kenyan girls spend hours every day fetching potable water for their families rather than going to school.
Girls who are able to attend school are often uncomfortable with the lack of hygenic bathrooms during menstruation. Due to the traditional division of labor, women and girls are constantly in contact with water, much of which is poluted. This puts them at greater risk for contracting waterborne diseases, one of the top four causes of death among African women.
GWAKO formed in 1998 to provide clean water, improve women's health, protect girls' right to education, and boost women's economic status. Like Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai's tree-planting Greenbelt Movement in Kenya, GWAKO empowers women by involving them in the improvement of their environment.
Working with women in 14 villages across western Kenya, GWAKO is building sustainable wells, conducting community education about hygiene and sanitation, training women farmers to produce higher yields and installing washing facilities and latrines in schools. GWAKO supplements these activities by facilitating the formation of girls' clubs in schools to promote self-esteem and life skills.
In January 2005, GWAKO received an $18,000 Global Fund grant to build and reinforce wells in five villages, and to expand its ecological sanitation project. The project aims to install composting and urine diversion toilets in schools and other community areas, and to train women farmers on how to reuse waste as fertilizer.