Today is International Women’s Day and our project proudly recognizes, and stands in solidarity with, the incredible women and girls all around the world that face a day-to-day adversity that is individual only to them.
Aside from promoting and standing for equality across the board for women, our project has also focused on creating a sanitation solution that focuses on the needs and safety of women and girls.
Intentional partnerships, like the one we have with SEWA – a women’s union in India with national reach in-country, that supports user studies through the mobilization of communities to provide input and feedback – have had a direct influence on our system design and approach. This data we collect is being implemented into our toilet system so that we can provide a space of safety for women and girls to relieve and care for themselves with dignity.
Our team is also sharing this data openly – collaborating with other institutions to help develop system designs, as well as educate on the needs for better access to proper MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management). Many cultures around the world still don’t recognize this vital need in society, resorting to damaging and often dangerous treatment of women and girls during their monthly period. We are trying to do our part to help remedy that.
It goes without saying that toilets can’t solve every issue a woman faces daily, but they can at least make portions of their day-to-day life easier and safer.
You can find more information on International Women’s Day right here.
Investments in health, education and empowerment of 10-year-old girls can triple a girl’s lifetime income. This and 9 other facts about adolescent girls are highlighted in this United Nations Population Fund Report summary. The full report on the State of World Population 2016 emphasizes that the welfare of these girls will have an enabling impact on the Sustainable Development Goals unanimously adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
In the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, our team and partners at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have a commitment to developing sanitation solutions for men and women, girls and boys, however in many parts of the developing world that lack access to safe and effective sanitation, gender discrimination disproportionately impacts women and girls. We believe that by focusing on the needs of adolescent girls, empowering them with better options, a virtuous cycle will be created that improves overall quality of life for girls, their families, and generations to come.
Below is a short video about a 12-year-old girl in India, highlighting the importance of including women and girls directly in the product design, education and business aspects of providing sanitation solutions.
Providing sanitation for every human on the planet by 2030 is going to take a Herculean amount of effort. Many projects just like our own, have discovered tough barriers that have to be overcome in order to improve global sanitation. As with any multi-tiered effort, when groups work together and share their solutions, we all benefit from our past collective wisdom. But that wisdom is only as good as it’s universal availability.
That’s where developing standards come in.
ISO.org recently (November, 2016) published an article documenting a “two-step solution to improving sanitation for 2.4 billion people” (ISO 24521). The post is a great description/example of how standards can help aid with valuable advice on “…training users and operators, evaluating risks and designing and building basic on-site domestic wastewater systems, including alternative technologies that can be set up using local resources. ISO 24521 can be used by both publicly and privately operated sanitation wastewater services for one or more dwellings, regardless of the type of facility model.”
“The demand for this guidance came from government agencies looking to bring sanitation services into many rural and some underprivileged urban communities that do not have such infrastructure, or that have it but do not know how to manage it and offer better services to their users,” explains Gerryshom Munala, Convenor of the working group that developed ISO 24521.
There are other published standards documents as well! Some of which, members of our project have provided valuable input. Here’s one we recently published in August, 2016: Non-Sewered Sanitation Systems: General safety and performance requirements for design and testing.
To read ISO.org’s recent post (with links to ISO 24521), click right here.
Our very own Myles Elledge gave a presentation at a PAS (Performance Assessment System) Project conference held in Pune, India this last month on Oct. 20th. The event itself was sponsored by CEPT University, Government of Maharashtra, and the All India Institute of Local Self Gov’t.
More info on the PAS Project can be found here.
Someone at the workshop was nice enough to capture the presentations on Periscope. You can find all of the recordings from the workshop here.
Myles’ presentation comes in on the Day 1, Part 4 recording (embed below), at the 1 hour and 17 minute mark.
An interesting research article posted recently on plos.org covers the findings of two large studies conducted in India where instances of child health/morbidity weren’t necessarily reduced by improved sanitation quality. Furthermore, it was found that the value of sanitation was only improved through effective community coverage.
“We hypothesis that the value of sanitation does not come directly from use of improved sanitation but from improving community coverage. If this is so we further hypothesise that the relationship between sanitation coverage and child health will be non-linear and that most of any health improvement will accrue as sanitation becomes universal.”
Past history/sentiment has shown that if we could just improve the quality of sanitation that, naturally, incidents of malnutrition and death in children would decline. This research article posits that, that notion is only part of the solution.
To read the article in its entirety, click here.