By Alice Yelbert-Obeng (Maame)
This spring, I spent 10 days in Ghana participating in the Global Women’s Water Initiative’s 2010 West African Women and Water training organized by A Single Drop, Crabgrass, and Women’s Earth Alliance. The goal of the workshop was to train women to use sustainable water technologies, such as harvesting rainwater, sanitation, testing, pasteurization, and biosand filtration. But the training is more than about water. It’s about developing women’s leadership and empowering them.
Over 1.2 billion people don’t have access to safe water. Sixty percent are women. More people die from polluted water than from violence, including war, and nearly 4 percent of all deaths are due to water-borne diseases. According to the UN Environmental Program, 2 billion tons of wastewater, like fertilizer run-off, sewage and industrial waste, is discharged daily.
Furthermore, women, girls and children are subjected to violence and rape in search of water as they travel weekly or monthly to get a bucket of water to undertake domestic chores, oftentimes from the same source of contaminated water animals drink from.
But the Global Women’s Water Initiative is changing this reality, one training at a time, using a right-based perspective. Not only are women trained in water technologies, we are empowered to break stereotypes about women’s capabilities and ability to work in non-traditional gendered roles. Women from multiple generations and diverse backgrounds, from grassroots, policy and funding organizations, came together to acquire these practical skills. As a “Global Peer,” I’ll be providing follow-up support to give participants feedback and help them form new connections.
As a Ghanaian living in the Diaspora, this trip gave me a meaningful way to improve the lives of fellow African sisters. It solidified my commitment to share my skills and talents, and to use my privilege to help create meaningful changes in the lives of women and girls. It made me realize how so little can go so far. Surprisingly, I discovered the power of my voice using comedy, music and dance, which proved to be incredibly effective in getting work done under the hot African sun.
Maame is part of the Sub-Saharan Africa Program Team.
Photos courtesy Women's Earth Alliance.