The women making a difference in Nicaragua A leader, a mother, a person who gets things done… meet the women who are helping to secure water and sanitation for their communities. The roles played by women in society are increasingly visible. Pay parity, the ‘Me Too’ movement and recent high-profile sporting events including the Women's World Cup, and Netball World Cup, are all helping to champion women’s causes and raise awareness of key issues faced by women in society. In some parts of the world, where basic needs are often just being met, women are making themselves heard in different ways. Just a Drop recently visited some of our projects in Nicaragua where we met Paola, Maria and the teachers at El Crystal. In her village in Nicaragua, Paola lives with her seven children, including two sets of twins. Paola is a seamstress, altering and repairing clothes for the community, and her busy home doubles as something of a community centre. As the village is so remote, Paola has also begun selling small items of food for those who drop in. Paola at home making clothes Recently, her village celebrated the arrival of a regular supply of safe water. With expertise, guidance and training from Just a Drop and Just a Drop’s local partner, a piped system was put into place, affording the community with reliable, safe water at the turn of a tap - for drinking, cooking and cleaning. As with all Just a Drop projects, the groundwork and maintenance are carried out in conjunction with the community, which helps create a growing sense of ownership and ensures sustainability. Community volunteers spent a week digging the 700-metre pipeline from the pump house to the water distribution tank, across pretty rough terrain. From the water distribution tank, water is pumped, via pipelines, to village homes and the village school via 35 tap connections, transforming their lives. One resident, Reina, who has three children, used to fetch water 10 times a day using a bucket which she carried on her head - a task that took four hours. Having access to clean water at home has made a huge difference to her life, not least in freeing up her time. On completion of the project there was much to celebrate. The community, which had decorated the pump house for the visit by Just a Drop, turned out in force. It was Paola, who had been instrumental in bringing the project to fruition, who delivered the celebratory speech on behalf of her community. It’s unusual in such a village to have a woman at the forefront, but Paola is a natural leader and figurehead of the community. Without her there would be no water solution - it’s as simple as that. It was Paola who initiated the progress of this project, organising a meeting to bring the community together and create a plan for the hard labour required. Just a Drop’s Brendan Hanlon, noted that ‘it was incredibly tough work but a job spoken about with real pride’. Paola describes herself as simply a housewife. But she is also a leader, a mother and someone who gets things done for the greater good of her community. Similarly, in another village nearby, mother of three, Maria, took action – getting her community involved in the building of a small, but significant, well. For two years, the community had tried to dig a well themselves, only to have it washed away during the rainy season. With Maria’s action and technical expertise and support from Just a Drop, a few months later, a hand-dug well with a rope pump was constructed. Protected from the damaging effects of the rainy season, it now provides access to clean, safe water for a community of 32 people. Once again, the project wouldn’t have happened without Maria leading her community, and her village is proof that solutions needn’t been on a grand scale for them to have a big impact. Maria at the well Of course, the issues these communities face, isn’t just access to water for domestic use, Just a Drop also supports sanitation and hygiene projects. Analeis, Anna and Rosa, teachers at El Crystal, instigated finding a solution to their sanitation nightmare at their school. The existing toilets had been in use for 20 years and were worn and unsafe for use. There was no alternative option for them to use, other than sending children home when they needed the toilet. Analeis explained that: 'it was difficult for us to take care of our needs because the latrine was not safe for the children to go to; we even had to go with them because we were afraid of them because we were afraid of them being bitten by a snake or scorpion' Just a Drop constructed three latrines for the school community of 55, one each for the boys, girls and teachers. The new latrines are invaluable and have had a huge impact on the children and teachers at El Crystal, improving the overall hygiene and health levels at the school. In addition, each classroom has a dedicated hygiene corner, reinforcing hygiene messages, along with soap, toothpaste, toilet roll and sanitary pads. The school children are now well versed in hygiene - a real and lasting achievement that will be felt for years to come, and one that would not have been possible without the proactive teamwork shown by Analeis, Anna and Rosa. Analeis, Anna and Rosa at the new latrines It was the determination, motivation and action of Paola, Maria, Anaelis, Anna and Rosa which made these projects happen, bringing safe water, sanitation and improved hygiene to their communities, to the benefit of all. Strong communities, and indeed strong women, are at the core of all Just a Drop’s work – ensuring all projects have a sustainable, lasting and transformational impact.