“The whole success of this project was because of the dignity it brought to the community….women now command respect. Women in the community have dignity. The girls now go to school.”
Salamatu Garba is making waves across Nigeria. As the Executive Director of the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), she has spent 25 years working to empower Nigeria’s rural women and is coming off an especially big year in 2016 — she became an Ashoka Fellow for Nigeria (designating her as a global change leader) and was nominated to the steering committee of the Netherlands-based Women for Water Partnership thanks to her work improving rural water, sanitation, hygiene, and food security.
In her recent conversation with Global Waters Radio, Garba remembers the moment her life’s mission became clear, in the early 1990s. “I stumbled across one of my village women — pregnant, with loads of wood on her head, coming from the farm [with] some livestock — and I stopped to chat with her,” she recalls. “And she told me the life of a woman is nothing more than being subservient to a man, give birth, get pregnant, and that is it until God takes your life.” Garba’s interaction with that woman — whom she later learned died during childbirth — remained seared in her memory and drove her to found WOFAN to address the plight of Nigeria’s rural women and advocate for community improvements that would enhance their quality of life.
“Eighty percent of all the facilities we provided are still functioning — the reason being that we give skill to community members, leave the skills in the community, give them tools, and link them to the local authorities so that, collectively, they can address issues of maintaining their WASH facilities.”
Garba says one of the main catalysts of WOFAN’s sustained success was a project supported 10 years ago by the Water and Development Alliance (WADA), a joint initiative between USAID and Coca-Cola. That 18-month WADA project built capacity, provided trainings, and helped install water and sanitation infrastructure, enabling WOFAN to make serious quality of life improvements in local communities. Despite the project’s limited duration, she tells Global Waters Radio it continues to have an outsized impact today. Its ripple effects continue to be felt in the form of greater economic and social empowerment for women, owing to their increased involvement in water and sanitation management; improved water supply infrastructure; and community-level education campaigns championing handwashing behavior change for improved hygiene and community health.
WASH infrastructure introduced by WADA has stood the test of time, as well. “By today, 80 percent of all the facilities we provided are still functioning,” she reports. “The reason being that we give skill to community members, leave the skills in the community, give them tools, and linked them to the local authorities so that, collectively, they can address issues of maintaining their WASH facilities.”
Interested in hearing Garba talk more about WADA’s influence and the strategic importance of empowering women with greater decisionmaking roles in Nigeria’s water and sanitation sectors?
To view or download the following Global Waters Radio transcript, please click here.
By Russell Sticklor
For more information on the research or organizations discussed in this Global Waters Radio podcast:
Global Waters Radio is a podcast series produced by the Water Team at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The series offers listeners insights from USAID officials, development partners, thought leaders and experts from across the water sector as they discuss current USAID water programming and cutting-edge research from around the world. Have a topic you would like to see covered in a future Global Waters Radio podcast? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow us on Twitter @USAIDWater.