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.
NPR.org recently posted a story about the practice of banishing girls from everyday life activities (in some cases, from the very homes they live in) while they a going through their period. From Nepal to Kathmandu, these practices come from age old religious beliefs based on the idea that any female menstruating is, in essence, untouchable.
As part of our mission, we’ve incorporated facilities to provide women and girls with supplies as well as a safe and private space for them to care for themselves with dignity. We also work with groups that are helping elevate women and girls in society in the hopes that these cruel societal practices no longer occur. The tide is turning (albeit slowly) as more and more of the global population is getting educated and enlightened on menstruation and its purely natural occurrence.
The story above is definitely a sobering reminder though that, for all of the progress we’ve made, we still have a ways to go.
To read the story on NPR’s site, click here.
You can also stream the audio to the story here: