Twenty-eight-year-old Jenifer Colpas is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Tierra Grata. It is a social enterprise that sets out to address the need for basic energy, water and sanitation services in Colombia.
Her team trains women in good water and sanitation practices. They install low-cost bathrooms with ecological toilets that do not require water, saving 270,000 liters of water per year. Her system protects water resources while generating natural fertilizer to use on the farm.
She set up her Colombian enterprise with a very clear mission in mind. “Water and sanitation issues sit at the intersection of environmental and social concerns. Lacking water and sanitation solutions contribute to disease, stagnation and the pollution of natural waterways,” she says.
When combined with the impacts of urbanization—loss of forest cover, for example—the natural protection for watersheds and purification services becomes degraded, aggravating further the gap between water supply and demand, she notes.
Lack of access to sanitation services can also be a deterrent to women’s participation in meetings, training and other events where important decisions are made, further isolating them from influencing development in their own communities. In most poor, remote regions, it is not unusual to travel for hours without a bathroom in sight.
Often, the communities where Colpas works are cut off from water and sanitation services and this is the gap she sets out to fill.
UN Environment’s Lis Mullin Bernhardt, Freshwater Expert, says: “Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right, fundamental to the realization of all other human rights. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate access, either in terms of quantity or quality of water, often impacts women and children disproportionately.
“In most regions of the world, women are responsible for helping their families get access to these life-giving services, so it is essential that their unique views and challenges are part of the decision-making processes and solutions. Tierra Grata is a great step in this direction.”
As a Young Champions of the Earth Regional Finalist for Latin America and the Caribbean and global Changemaker, Colpas tells us about her relentless journey and mission to found Tierra Grata.