Back in July 2018 we partnered with 1% for the Planet – nominating Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) as one of our chosen organisations to contribute to. WEA’s story appealed to us greatly because of their broad work with grass-roots organisations in developing nations. They have implemented 125 women’s environmental and entrepreneurship projects in 18 countries training, funding and catalysing 5000 women to advance safe water, clean energy, regenerative farming, women’s land rights and more. WEA’s model creates cascading benefits through education and life-giving environment solutions. Through WEA’s work, what really resonates with us is how they champion the intersection of female empowerment and tackling environmental impact.
When our team were heading to Cape Town for a campaign shoot recently, we asked WEA if we could visit one of their projects in Kenya to see the amazing impact WEA have had on the ground there.
Our team, Lisa Smith and her photographer husband Jamie Green, visited Rose Wamalwa in Kakamega, Kenya. Rose has been working with WEA since 2011 where she was put through the GWWI Fellowship Program, which creates a network of support by linking grassroots women with African and International women working in the environmental, health, water and/or public sector. From there, she formed her own impressive organisation called WWANC.
Vising these ladies and seeing first hand the incredible work that Rose has achieved with the support of WEA, Jamie and Lisa reflected on it being one of the most touching and inspiring travel experiences they remember.
“We flew into Kisumu and were met with beautiful airport chaos and people eager to help. On the way to our accommodation we spotted giraffes, zebras and leopards… we couldn’t believe our eyes!” Lisa said. The next morning, Rose came and collected us for a journey to Kakamega and the surrounding village where we were greeted with song and heard stories about the women who have benefitted from an organisation like WWANC. The women meet at the Kisembe Dispensary, which has become a place for them to come weekly – not only for education around entrepreneurship and creating handmade goods to sell, but for a real sense of community and support. The women create a variety of handmade goods including mud pots for cooking and handwoven baskets – that are sold at local markets as well as areas further away (which ordinarily wouldn’t be the case). All funds then go back into this community, creating financial independence for these women, shifting their financial reliance from their family or husbands.
Rose said that the impact that WEA has had is invaluable. “If we empower a man, you empower an individual. If we empower our women, we empower the community. Because of WEA, we’ve been able to help 50 women’s groups. We’ve constructed water tanks. We’ve been able to form communities.”
“Farewelling the ladies of the Kisembe Dispensary we headed to another village around 40 minutes away – a collaboration of four different groups, where we came to learn their stories of the obstacles of every day living and creating an income. Simple things like access to water from a well, over 10kms away, as a daily walk makes creating your own wealth difficult. With WWANC there is access to microloans, which can mean buying a goat to raise and sell, or working at the nursery – which means selling produce at the markets.”
“We had a really rich experience visiting the WWANC team that have been working with WEA since they began, and we’re excited to see how our partnership with WEA really can make an impact on these grass roots organisations,” Lisa said.
The women working on these projects were really aware of environmental impact, which to us is kind of crazy (amazing) as their footprint in comparison to many of us, would be small. The fact that they are all working together for big change is as mind-blowing as it is admirable, particularly given the challenges they face. We’re really looking forward to how our partnership with WEA is going to assist organisations like WWANC to achieve their goals and a betterment to their way of life.