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75: Water Nerd Rockstar: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to Empower Women in Water Everywhere

Brianna Huber worked in the public health field for 13 years before exploring the environmental side of public health. She has been a licensed Class A chemist for the City of East Moline Water Filtration Plant for five years ago. Her tenure in the water industry may be short but her list of involvement is not. Brianna is the current chair of the ISAWWA’s Mentoring committee and a member of the Outreach Committee. She also holds leadership roles in the Upper Mississippi River Water Suppliers Coalition, the USCG Area Maritime Security Council, the Quad City Public Information Officer group and the AWWA Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Brianna is also passionate about empowering women in the water industry which she demonstrated by launching and serving as chair of the ISAWWA Women in Water committee where she unites, motivates and supports female water industry workers throughout IL and beyond.

Top Takeaways:

  1. We are so fortunate in the US with regards to water and sanitation. So many people around the world still don’t have adequate access.
  2. If you believe in something, you better be ready to die for it – or run full speed down a mountain to survive.
  3. Women have a critical role to play in solving the global water crisis and achieving the UN SDG6.

Show Notes:

[8:50] Tell us about your adventure and the Tanzanian Gender Networking Program (TGNP).

  • Strong interest in global water issues.
  • Planned to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for women in water and water issues.

[12:55] How did you become a tribe member of an African tribe?

  • The village Chief showed me their water supply and how they were not able to use it due to the poor water quality.
  • Brianna remains connected to the tribe via WhatsApp.

[17:05] What were some of your biggest takeaways from Tanzania?

  • The USA is so much more engineered than Tanzania.  Very few standards – looked like a lot of chaos.
  • No infrastructure to support basic needs.
  • Hard to describe the level of poverty these people experience every day.
  • Vibrant culture, kind people, what they have they are willing to share. The people are very happy.

[22:48] You said Tanzania doesn’t have concern for environmental issues, what made you come to that conclusion?

  • There were piles of trash in the front yards of most people’s homes.
  • More concerned about getting food and water vs. environmental concerns.
  • Sometimes we think we are doing a good thing but the results don’t turn out as expected – the story of two wells.
  • TGNP is bringing women into the water industry and using local resources to perform work.

[29:15] What are some of the things you noticed about women and the impact of the global water crisis?

  • Cannot meet SDG6 without the help of women.
  • Women still bear the primary responsibility for collecting water. Their lack of education prevents than from participating in the water industry unless they are shown how.
  • Five words that sum up her takeaways from the trip.
    • Existence – Until you see it yourself, it’s not real to you.
    • Raw – This is my story and I was a witness to their stories.
    • Guilty – This could be my life too.
    • Calamity – Our absence of solutions has occurred over many years.
    • Inspiring – The people’s passion for life in spite of these circumstances. What I am doing has a purpose.

[35:00] What was it like to come back to the US?

  • Consider bathing your newborn child in this polluted water.  We can trust our water systems without these fears.
  • I wanted to stay. I fell in love with the Tanzanian people. I enjoyed living in their culture.
  • Water is life really hits you when you see these issues up close.

[38:45] Do you feel like you’ve been able to raise the awareness you hoped?

  • People were shocked and disgusted that this still exists.
  • As a global humanity we need to do better.
  • Some people still reacted with apathy.

[41:40] Can you tell us the story of your trip climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?

  • This story is epic y’all. Listen to this whole thing.

[54:10] You said you felt like an island in a male dominated industry. Can you tell us some of the work you’ve been doing to bring women into water?

  • Created a Women in Water Committee at the Illinois section of AWWA.
  • Working with the Girl Scouts.
  • Awareness around navigating parenthood and careers.
  • No data on women in the water industry. No baseline.

[1:03:06] The Lighting Round

  • BBC Podcast: 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter
  • Plan my day based on what I really want to be working on, not just the immediate attention items.
  • People cannot ignore what is plainly in their sight. Be the change that you want to see.

Resources:

Sponsor:

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