My Impact Leader Vision

Olanike
Posted September 27, 2016 from Nigeria

There is just no time to give up on my quest to rewrite the stories of grassroots women whose position, needs, concerns, rights, roles and responsibilities are undermined in environmental protection and natural resource stewarding.

Since childhood, I have felt and knew that I have duty to this earth to be an effective steward and protect its natural beauty. Throughout my youth, I became deeply aware of the disparity that existed in my community. I grew up in the city of Kaduna, and while traveling between Kaduna and Lagos, I would see a different world. The difference, particularly in relation to water use and management, made me question why this disparity exists and what could I do to help.

In 2009 I founded Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE), a grassroots nonprofit organization which today has trained over 7,000 women in clean energy, safe water technologies, and entrepreneurship, strengthening the roles women play in community resource management.

What is the issue you are trying to solve? The effects of climate change such as drought, erosion, flooding, water shortage, food scarcity, as well as deforestation, poverty and patriarchal traditions have increased the strain on women and girls throughout Nigeria hindering environmental prosperity and socioeconomic development. Women’s restricted access to resources and information, and limited power in decision-making make them most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental and security challenges. They are typically confronted with attitudes, systems and practices that overlook and or undermine their position, needs, concerns, rights, roles and responsibilities in environmental protection and natural resource stewarding.

It is common to find women who do all of the farm work and yet are denied the right to own the land they till, day-in and day-out. Women spend productive hours searching for fuel wood and inhale much of the toxic fumes from the fireplace but they are rarely considered in conservation strategies. It is the same for those who source the water yet remain the thirstiest and most burdened by the search for clean and safe water points as they have no say when interventions are planned.

What is your solution? Through field experiences and several assessment studies, my organization developed a model that creates opportunities for disadvantaged women and girls to organize, train and collaborate on environmental concerns, particularly those that have direct bearing on their lives. We have worked for over seven years to mobilize disadvantaged women, especially, in Kaduna State, Nigeria by addressing a number of environmentally destructive cultural practices in water and food supply, energy services, natural resource access, education and waste management issues.

Our programs deliver environmental awareness and education on climate change, conservation, energy, food and water security, as well as sanitation and hygiene. We also teach peace and conflict resolution, micro entrepreneurship, citizen journalism, empowerment 2.0 and digital empowerment.

In what way will the lives of specific individuals be improved because of your work? My enterprise advances constructive environmental practices by empowering people, mostly women, to become community-environmental stewards. The holistic approach adopted builds the capacity for women and youth (especially female youth) to become environmental change-agents. This approach is key to supporting them to contribute to environmental sustainability and sustainable development in ways where the women position themselves as seekers and initiators of solutions, decision makers, contributors and authors of their future.

In this way, the women and girls do not return to the default, societal position (or social norm) of passive participants, victims, nor helpless recipients of handouts. The approach integrates and explores women’s leadership, personal agency, economic empowerment and peer mentoring as a sustainable solution to environmental conservation.

Women and girls are becoming leaders, moving from bare survival to contribution.

Impact Goal: Projection goal is to serve 3,000 women each year.

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