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.
Currently, 2.5B people lack access to improved sanitation, and daily 2200 children die from diarrheal disease. One fourth of Indian school-age girls drop out during puberty due to lack of sanitation options during menses.
Empowering women and girls to lead in solving the sanitation crisis will improve lives, livelihoods, health, safety, and dignity. Their leadership will transform the sanitation value chain from user interface, to collection, to treatment and reuse of fecal sludge.
The next phase of our program reaffirms our ongoing commitment to address sanitation through the eyes of women and girls, focusing on the unique role that women and girls can play in addressing the global sanitation crisis. A problem that disproportionately impacts women and girls, should be addressed from the perspective of women and girls. This video looks at the problem and solution from the perspective of a 12-year old girl name Lakshmi, living in India.
As the world changes economically and more and more sanitation options become readily available to everyone, there’s been an increase in the use of paper-based products when cleaning yourself while using the bathroom.
An article in Quartz speaks on this topic and the effect it is having specifically in India.
“Indians may slowly be undergoing a whole new round of “toilet training”: Toilet wipes, diapers and sanitary napkins are flying off the shelves in Asia’s third largest economy.”
Several things are causing this shift, but chief amongst them appear to be:
- Growth in disposable income.
- Education and awareness of these products (particularly with sanitation protection for women and girls).
- Simple convenience.
- Companies seeing a business opportunity and making their products more affordable.
“The tissue and hygiene segment in India is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 76% till 2020, according to Euromonitor, a market research firm. The market will, thus, grow from the current Rs5,780 crore ($870 million) to over Rs10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) by 2020.”
That is incredible growth and interesting to observe, particularly in cultures like India that have dealt with sanitation in a certain way for centuries. In many cases they are quite stuck in their ways.
As we work towards solutions to address the global sanitation problem at large, it’s heartening to see that there is always the potential for old ideologies to shift.
It’s great piece with lots of additional information and graphs to back it all up. Click here to read the article in it’s entirety.
A recent article in The Guardian touches upon an age old job that no one wants to talk about: manual scavenging.
“A caste-based role, manual scavenging condemns mostly women to clean excreta from dry latrines with their hands and carry it on their heads to dumps. Men from the community clean open gutters and sewerage lines, often with no protective gear.”
If the assigned task wasn’t bad enough, their treatment in society is the salt in the proverbial wound. Any manual scavenger, including their children, are treated on a subhuman level in India’s society. Basically untouchable. And even though comparatively strict laws have been passed recently prohibiting manual scavenging, the practice still occurs due to the caste-based system and the discrimination that is deeply inherent within.
There is a silver lining though. Activist groups are now teaching these lower caste groups their rights and the laws that have been designed to protect them in a more modern society. Better still, they are educating the younger generations in these lower castes so that they can make a difference in their own way when it comes time for them to enact change.
“The way forward, activists believe, is to educate the younger generation, who are open to change. The barefoot lawyers initiative, which trains men and women from all communities, is a step in that direction.”
For sure, it’s an incredibly sobering read, but it’s also a very real problem that is gaining momentum towards a day when these sad old beliefs will, hopefully, be memories in a brighter future.
Click here to read the article in it’s entirety.