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.
A recent article from U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) followed global Menstrual Hygiene Day (which occurred May 28), and supports our WASH advocacy efforts aimed at confronting the taboos and social restrictions placed on menstruating girls and women. In addition, the article also stresses the bringing of investments and innovation to mainstreaming MHM into sanitation solutions.
“Across the developing world, tens of millions of girls face major difficulties managing their monthly period. According to UNICEF, more than half the schools in the poorest countries lack private toilets. And unlike teenage girls in well-off countries, many in the developing world can’t afford (or even find) tampons and pads.”
“We’re not talking about rocket ships; we’re talking about sanitary pads,” she says. “Yet they both have the same effect. They take you places.”
You can read the entire article on npr.org by clicking right here.
May 28 is global menstrual hygiene day. Let us honor our mothers, daughters, sisters – and all women by acknowledging, recognizing and speaking about menstruation.
Safe and effective menstrual hygiene management depends on adequate sanitation. Sanitation that is safe, hygienic, and private.
Information is key to help us achieve this goal. Information will help increase knowledge, build respect, and reduce negative perceptions. Water and sanitation programming needs to make menstrual hygiene management (MHM) a central part of our work. MHM is an equity, employment, human rights, health, and environmental issue closely linked to sanitation. Menstruation is a natural bodily function, just like defecation and urination. Let us not be ashamed and stigmatize MHM.
The myths and taboos that surround menstrual hygiene make it very difficult for women in our society. MHM is important for many reasons. As the ability to maintain hygiene, it is integral to a woman’s well-being, education access, mobility, employment and dignity.
As part of our global work under the reinvent the toilet program, we are testing strategies to provide safe, private MHM solutions, as well as boost access to products and sanitation services. It is vital for us to recognize, talk about, and address the challenge to integrate MHM into our sanitation work.
Our mothers, daughters, sisters and all women deserve privacy, access, and dignity. Break the silence. This infographic from menstrualhygieneday.org helps highlight “why”:
Sexual violence is endemic throughout the developed and developing world. Recent research work models data from 1 township in South Africa illustrates how improving access to sanitation facilities in urban informal settlements can simultaneously reduce both the number of sexual assaults and the overall cost to society.
Improving access to public toilets in South African urban settlements may reduce both the incidence of sexual assaults by nearly 30% and the overall cost to society, a study by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Management found. The research was published April 29 in PLOS ONE.
Rights-based and development organizations have increasingly been calling attention to the fact that inadequate local sanitation facilities are a key factor in a woman’s risk for physical or sexual assault. Many women in South Africa must travel out of their homes to public toilets, where they are more vulnerable to attack from sexual predators. This research from South Africa has global implications, as such links between inadequate sanitation and sexual violence have been noted in incidents in many regions, refugee camps, as well as in urban and rural settings.