Recently on gatesnotes.com, Bill Gates published a post on India’s on-going struggle to combat the effects of human waste and to find better, more effective ways to handle sanitation for all its people.
In the post he focuses on Prime Minister Modi’s recent Swachh Bharat campaign and the progress it has been making towards stopping the act of open defecation nation-wide.
The good news is that the campaign is working – the number of people with access to proper sanitation has gone up from 42% in 2014 to 63%, and that stat is continues to climb higher.
In addition to the above post, Bill Gates also created a short virtual-reality video about the undertaking of Swachh Bharat. You can check it out below. (NOTE: It should be viewable in recent versions of Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.)
On Friday, March 17th, RTI hosted representatives of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (RDECOM) for a pre-demonstration and technology review of the TOWR (Toilet with Onsite Remediation).
The day included presentations from the team on technology performance and ended with processing demonstrations in the lab and the TOWR mobile platform. Next steps will be to perform a technology demonstration at a TBD military facility this summer. Natick RDECOM selected RTI to continue the development of transformative sanitation technologies that are also currently being developed under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation programs.
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.
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.