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Addressing the Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Challenge

Globally, women and girls are traditionally responsible for managing a households’ clean water supply and home environment. However, their roles are primarily undervalued and bypassed in decision-making processes. Through local level, culture-sensitive and creative approaches, Women & Water seeks to address the water situation in small-scale fishing villages while promoting local mothers and daughters’ participation and leadership capabilities as stewards of positive change for greater gender equity and social-ecological resilient coastal communities.



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Women & Water launched in 2018. Sarah Hauser, a professional windsurfer from New Caledonia, traveled to South America to compete in the International Windsurfing Tour's Peru Pacasmayo Classic. Passionate about water sports as tools for social and environmental change, after the competition, Sarah sought an opportunity to join a community-based project engaging local kids from the nearby fishing villages. The women at the Changing Tides Foundation connected Sarah with Emi Koch from Beyond the Surface in Lobitos, Peru.


Through surfing and swimming classes, Emi focuses on engaging children from small-scale fishing families with their ocean in a way that nurtures curiosity, positives relationships with self, community, and the environment. Beyond the Surface's participatory audiovisual workshop series, Coast 2 Coast, was co-founded together with Nicolás Landa, a videographer from Lima, Peru with engaged in social justice and documentary production. Coast 2 Coast enables kids with the technical and creative media skills to celebrate the strengths and identify their community's needs in their village and natural environment. Water scarcity and inadequate hygiene and sanitary facilities is one necessity that's long been an issue for the fishing village.

Nestled into an isolated, bone-dry stretch of Northern Peru’s coastline, Lobitos is a small-scale fishing village that once played host to pioneering British and American oil companies. In 1968, the Peruvian military-led government expelled foreign enterprises. The army quickly moved into Lobitos, destroying all leftover infrastructure, including the desalinization plant installed by the enterprises that provided the local community with clean drinking water. Today left parched in the desert, Lobitos receives a limited, fickle supply of unfiltered water pumped into the town weekly. To quench their thirst, residents must first boil the water. However, many have grown accustomed to drinking milk, juices, or other sugary beverages instead.


Emi and Sarah discussed the issues of water scarcity and its impact particularly on women. After brainstorm sessions, research and inputs from local community members, Women & Water launched in an effort to improve the WASH situation in Lobitos while promoting local mothers and daughters’ participation and leadership capabilities as stewards of positive change for their community.

Number of Girls Involved: 10

Number of Families with Access to Clean Water: 10




The girls shared their perspectives on water scarcity's impact on their community and their ideas about ways to maintain healthy hygiene and good sanitation. Keywords and overlapping themes from their stories became the basis for the girls to explain the problem through their own images.



A group of young girls captured the images that came to mind when they thought of water in their community. Known as PhotoVoice, this Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) tool invites kids to illustrate an issue under investigation through their own pictures. After photographing where water was or should be in their fishing village, the girls took a look at their images and gave their voice to them, discussing why they took the picture they did and what message about water's role it contained. The images were printed and part of a community exhibition. 



A team of students produced a stop-motion animation on how to use the donated water filters. Their stop-motion directed by the girls in the class serves as the training manual for families on how to use their new filter. The animation was screened for the Lobitos community and in each household that received a filter.


Our second year, friends from the Changing Tides Foundation and Bodhi Surf & Yoga joined us in Lobitos and supported our newly formed all-girl surfing classes, audiovisual workshops, and nutrition & wellness circles with their positive energy and drive. We focused this year on building on the information the girls reported from their Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) in 2018, to address some of the key issues centered around WASH. We focused our 2019 efforts on strengthening our outreach programs and also, developing a local women's group for the girls' mothers to meet regularly and advocate for the rights of women, with an emphasis on safe water access, improved sanitation and menstrual hygiene. CTF presented an idea to the Lobitos community of implementing a solar-powered reverse-osmosis desalination machine capable of producing 2,800 gallons of clean drinking water per day over the next 10 years, and managed by the women's group. 

Number of Girls & Mothers Involved: 29

Number of Families with Access to Clean Water: 32





Our PhotoVoice workshops this year focused on documenting key infrastructure necessary for good WASH practices, as well as taking portraits of one another, sharing what strengths we could see in our friends.



A team of local elementary school girls led by Peruvian artist, Luana Letts, painted together a mural on the walls outside a classrooms. The girls lined up their bodies against the wall and their peers traced their silhouettes. The girls painted inside their figures, dancing and swimming below the sea under a full moon.



As part of our nutrition workshops, a team of young girls co-created a stop-motion animation on How to Make Ceviche from the North of Peru, a healthy dish with deep cultural roots and of course, a connection to the Peru's northern oceans. The Tropical Sea is home to roughly 70% of the nation's marine biodiversity and therefore, a hotspot for illegal, unreported, unregulated or IUU fishing. Overfishing not only impacts ocean healthy but also leads to food insecurities for the fish-dependent coastal communities living along the Tropical Sea. While the animation appears cute and innocent, it serves as a platform to discuss the critical issues surrounding the dish.



Our two art workshops focused on making signs with positive messaging for climate action and also, drawing self-portraits.


This year, we kicked off with more surfing workshops and a fundraiser to install a solar-powered reverse-osmosis desalination machine which is capable of producing 2,800 gallons of clean drinking water per day over the next 10 years. We're also to work together with local mothers to establish Madre Mar, the first women's group in Lobitos to manage the potable water supply but also, serve as a safe-space for local mothers to beginning transform gender relations and support women and girls as agents of change to lead healthy lives and participate in social, economic, environmental conservation and political activity. 

Number of Girls & Mothers Involved: 42

Number of Families with Access to Clean Water: 50



In September 2019, the Changing Tides Foundation (CTF) team traveled to Lobitos to work with Beyond the Surface International on the Women & Water program in order to support and strengthen female participation and leadership capabilities to take charge of improving the water situation. While in Lobitos, CTF presented the opportunity to implement a solar-powered reverse-osmosis desalination machine which is capable of producing 2,800 gallons of clean drinking water per day over the next 10 years. The community was thrilled about the idea and agreed that the distribution would be best managed by the women.




Madre Mar is a self-led group of local mothers advocating for safe water access, improved sanitation and menstrual hygiene (WASH) in Lobitos, a small-scale fishing village along Northern Peru’s bone-dry coastline. Madre Mar is supported by female activists, athletes audiovisual artists, and health educators from Peru and around the world promoting gender equity in WASH. Madre Mar’s mission is to transform gender relations and support women and girls as agents of actionable change to lead healthy lives and participate in social, economic, environmental conservation and political activity. WASH is one essential pathway to achieve these goals.


Through audiovisual communication tools, mothers share their stories through their own media productions co-created with support from Peruvian and international female artists, journalists, scientists, researchers and advocates. Joining their daughters in water sports classes (surfing and swimming), mothers step into a medium traditionally reserved for their husbands and sons. Women build their inner and outer strength through wild, unstructured nature play; celebrating Mother Earth, La Mar, femininity, identifying challenges and co-creating potential solutions to social and ecological needs through multilateral partnerships.


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