My name is Justine Olweny, and this is my story:
Where I came from:
Being born to a water engineer and a teacher in a town in Northern Uganda strategically molded me for who I am today. At 12 years old I was practicing and solving problems using a Pentium II computer desktop. I undertook vocational study (Certificate – Degree) and gained a BSc. in Information Systems and Technology (Dev’t & Integration). At this time, I founded Youth Against Poverty (a community based organisation) and wrote an article on ‘Youth Successes in Northern Uganda’. As an ICT freelancer I was able to market my work and landed a couple of opportunities one of which was Geophysical Survey using Vertical Electrical Sounding with Water4.org.
Lack of safe drinking water means a lot to do:
I remember when I came back from school and found everybody in my homestead (Village) was sick. I had to walk 98 Kilometers to get them (12 people) medicine. I searched for three days but couldn’t find enough medicine for them, it was so frustrating because the illness was waterborne-related; it could have been prevented by a safe water access and hygiene behavioural practices.
I found joy and sense of purpose when adding values to others especially when I was conducting water point siting for manual drillers. Over two years I built organisational capacity in enterprises in eight countries in Sub Saharan Africa, and this motivated me to start Water Access Consulting to share WASH knowledge both directly with the communities and indirectly through WASH implementing entities using Resource Center.
Why I’m doing this:
I feel so grateful giving knowledge of WASH while sharing my experiences and building people’s capacity. I am at my best when adding value to someone by helping them to access professional platforms and networks.
I first attended an RWSN webinar series in 2017 and have been sharing published resources with local organisation involved in WASH programmes.
Today, non-governmental organisations, agencies, and private institutions are visiting the facility (WAC – Resource Centre) for WASH knowledge and research. Currently an anthropology student from Copenhagen University is carrying out her Master thesis research on Menstrual Hygiene Management at the center. While in September we hosted an Annual East African Vertical Electrical Sounding training for geophysical practitioners.
How WASH knowledge changed everything
Membership and platform:
Attending a geophysical surveying workshop (organised by Water4.org in 2015) and working as a geophysical surveyor with drilling technicians exposed me to the famous Rural Water Supply Network of WASH professionals, and I got actively involved.
Through RWSN I learned about other WASH platforms including: WSSCC, IWA, EWB, E4C, HIFA etc. I subscribed and closely kept following the discussions and I realised that there is a huge WASH knowledge gap in my region. This motivated me to gather the relevant resources which later evolved into a library at Water Access Consulting, an organisation that is enhancing the delivery of water supply, sanitation and hygiene solutions to improve the quality of life through knowledge dissemination and capacity building.
- Posting WASH articles and journals to platforms like Northern Uganda Contact Group that includes organisations implementing projects across the country especially in Northern Uganda and parts of South Sudan
- Participating in RWSN webinars with other like-minded professionals. Re-printing the resources referenced in the webinar for the library and share other copies.
- Participating in a weekly WASH talk show on water supply, sanitation and hygiene knowledge in regional radio station.
Library and research:
- Supporting other institutions both local and international during research studies for example the motivation and attitude towards menstrual hygiene management in adolescent with emphasis on access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation.
- Conducting periodic desk-reviews for different organisations and companies on WASH topics for example:
- i. commercialization of reusable sanitary pads with focus on environmental management;
- ii. plan for piped water to all communities within 200 meters or more from households in Uganda.
- Conducting capacity building training on application of cost-effective groundwater exploration using Vertical Electrical Sounding to support safe water supply for example the Annual VES Training for practitioners across East Africa.
Networking, collaborating and sharing WASH related resources has given us opportunities to enter into partnerships and contracts with organisations that are engaged with WASH projects and currently it’s our main source of revenue.
Editor’s note: if you based in Northern Uganda or South Sudan and are interesting visiting the WAC Resource Centre or participating in RWSN webinar meet-ups then contact Justine via their Facebook page.