Blogs tagged as sanitation

  • Trade-offs and choices: realities in urban sanitation projects

    Development charities don’t often talk about the difficulties; about the delays and frustrations. They will tell you of the awful situation people faced, and then “ta dah” here’s our solution. Why? Because we don’t want to apportion blame or appear somehow incompetent. But shouldn’t we try to look at the underlying difficulties: alert others, adjust our programming and try to make the system work better? Isn’t there value in being a little more transparent about the difficulties?

    My visit to 3 small towns in India’s Odisha State brought these issues home to me. We have been working there to improve the sanitation situation through a range of technology options, new social and community engagement structures, new partnerships with pit emptiers, and constructing treatment plants for the safe final disposal of the contents of pit latrines and septic tanks.

    We have faced pressures for swift action on the construction of physical infrastructure. This links to the Swachh Bharat Mission – a flagship program of the national government, aiming to make the nation open defecation free by 2019 (the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Ghandi) and to eliminate the practice of manual scavenging. Although it is ultimately the responsibility of municipalities to build and maintain water and sanitation infrastructures in the city, NGOs and civil society can support the process, and work in partnership to help achieve the government’s goals. As a result, NGOs like Practical Action have been given tight targets or deadlines to deliver on their activities. We have been asked to complete all infrastructures within a year. At the same time, the approvals process continues to be slow.

    In two of the towns, the focus of our attention has been on the successful completion of some ground-breaking pieces of infrastructure (in particular faecal sludge treatment plants which will be among the first in the state). If they can be shown to work successfully, they could be a trigger for others to follow, and for the municipalities themselves (who in this case see themselves as integral partners in the exercise) to champion the work. Dealing effectively and safely with faecal sludge is a fast-emerging issue which will only become a higher priority as the Swachh Bharat Mission moves fast on the construction of new toilets.

    Faecal sludge treatment plant under construction in Dhenkanal

    As a result, it has been an incredibly busy and complex time for the team of Practical Action and our local partner organisations. Some of the barriers they have had to overcome have included;

    • The need for approvals for construction, both to secure land and then for designs to be approved. For different types of infrastructure this has involved a whole range of different agencies at different levels, and can be extremely complex and time-consuming.
    • The lack of structure and clear plans at the municipal level for city-wide sanitation or waste management have meant decisions need to be taken from first principles each time.
    • Frequent changes of officials are common, but in some cases key municipal staff have changed 5 or 6 times over 12-18 months. A huge amount of time has to be invested in re-starting these relationships and ensuring understanding and commitments
    • Political pressures towards rapid completion of infrastructure, has squeezed the time available for adequate planning and engagement of all stakeholders in agreeing roles and responsibilities for system operation
    • The need for close interaction with government schemes which shape the available solutions, and which technologies are acceptable. For example, local rules apply to the quality of toilets that can be constructed, what subsidies are available under Swachh Bharat and how the up-front costs can be financed.

    With the Chairperson and Chief Officer, Dhenkanal

    What we have learned is that there are trade-offs and difficult choices to be made. For example:

    • To make any progress at all, especially in the early days of a relationship with a municipality, infrastructure may need to be delivered quickly, squeezing the time available for ideal amounts of planning and engagement with all stakeholders
    • Pressures of time, local regulations and common practices, used to try to ensure good quality construction can counter intentions to use labourers from the local community, or community engagement in other aspects of construction (such as procurement, quality checking, or keeping track of materials)
    • Pressures to start with things that are more within our own control, and which look impressive, ahead of less visible things that might in fact make the greatest difference to slum dwellers. Working on these may have to wait a little until we have built up trust.

    Taking an optimistic view, the pressure to complete construction, for example of the faecal sludge treatment plants, early on in the project (after one year of a two year project for example), does at least give us more time to work on getting the systems right and to monitor operation. In fact, this will ideally require longer than the year we have left to ensure all the hiccups in operation are addressed and resolved. The biggest challenges in the sanitation sector are all about sustained use, operation and maintenance. Community structures are in place to ensure their voices are heard in decision-making, but the detail of O&M still needs to be worked out.

    Community discussion on sanitation

    The World Urban Campaign’s vision is for the #cityweneed. A vision in which all residents have the opportunity for safe, healthy, and productive lives. Building on this, the New Urban Agenda endorsed by the UN General Assembly at the Habitat III conference in Quito in 2016 commits governments to urban development which ‘leaves no-one behind… providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services”. It promotes approaches which are “participatory, promote civic engagement, and engender a sense of belonging and ownership among all their inhabitants”.

    New Urban Agenda

    Achieving this as the direction for the achievement of SDG11 and in fact of all the SDGS in cities, will require pioneers, leadership and expertise. Demonstration of what is possible will help turn the tide on rampant inequalities and entrenched power bases. At the same time, the path can be full of obstacles both practical and political.

    • We need to learn, share and influence others to overcome these to achieve results in the best interests of the poorest residents.
    • We need to build trust in new ways of doing things so we can work in ways closer to the vision of the New Urban Agenda.

    There is a need for trust-building everywhere and increased capacity. Peer learning can be a powerful means of developing that, and it is something we hope to be able to foster more of over time in our programme in Odisha: between municipalities, between slum dwellers, between groups of informal workers.

    At Practical Action we will continue to learn and share our experiences, including the challenges. Watch this space!

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  • Systematic engagement of stakeholders can improve the sanitation situations in Dhenkanal Municipality


    November 20th, 2017

    Written by Ganesh Parida, Senior Project Officer, Project Nirmal

    Dhenkanal Municipality, is a small town in the state of Odisha, India. Witha a total area of 30.92 Sq. km and it spreads over 23 municipal Wards. As per the 2011 Census, the total population of the town is 67,414, out of which 34,864 males and 32,550 females. About 11,105 Scheduled Caste and 4095 Scheduled Tribe population live in the town. The town is having 14908 households. There are 17 notified slums in the city. Dhenkanal city, the district headquarters has a cluster of temples, archaeological remains, and a medieval fort. The majority of this district is covered with dense forest and a long range of hills, which are home to elephants and tigers.

    If we will analyse the sanitation aspects of the city, about 68% of the non-slum HHs and about 16% of slum HHs in the town have access to toilets and the remaining 32% non-slum & 84% slum HHs are practicing open defecation in the open field, river bank, alongside ponds, drains or roadside.
    People without access to individual toilets rely either on public toilets or resort to open defecation. There are public toilets, but toilets are ill-maintained, local people are not using regularly due to a deficiency in proper O&M from the service provider.

    The sanitation facilities in schools and other institutions are also inadequacies and maintenances of these facilities are always questionable. There is no sewerage system in Dhenkanal Municipality. As a result majority of sewage flows through open drain. There are no treatment systems for faecal sludge in Dhenkanal Municipality at present. Disposal of septage is causing serious problems in the Municipality. The collected sludge is disposed of in low lands, open fields, water bodies and drains. There are manual scavengers in the city working informally without any proper personal protection equipment like gloves, eye protection wear, boots and protective clothes.

    About 20 MT of solid waste is currently being generated per day in the city. The major source of solid waste generation in the city is street sweeping followed by households, vegetable market, fruit market, hotels, restaurants, institutions, hospital, fish and meat shops etc. There is a designated dumping yard in Ward No-8 for the disposal of solid waste but not for the treatment.

    Again if we will see the sanitation service delivery system in the city, the Municipality has many challenges to handle the above-said issues due to inadequate infrastructures and facilities.
    With this background, Project Nirmal has been associated with the Municipality since 2015 to improve the sanitation service delivery systems focusing on faecal sludge management. The overall vision is the demonstration of sustainable sanitation service delivery for small towns leading to increased coverage of households and institutions through enabling institutional and financial arrangements and increased private sector participation.

    To make the program effective and sustainable, engagement of the key stakeholders are highly essential starting from community to state level. Different forums have been constituted at the State, district, city and the community levels to ensure the participation of various stakeholders and their contribution towards the implementation of the project.

    Slum Sanitation Committee (SSC) has been set up in each slum to facilitate community mobilization, community monitoring of the sanitation activities, demand generation and preparation of planning at the slum and Ward level. 18 Slum Sanitation Committees are facilitating the community processes at slum level.

    Ward Sanitation Committee (WSC) has been formed under the chairmanship of the Ward Councilor to facilitate in the identification of sanitation issues, demand generation, monitor sanitation service delivery and planning processes at the ward level. 23 Ward Sanitation Committees are actively involved in marginalizing the sanitation-related issues at ward level.
    City Sanitation Task Force (CSTF) under the Chairmanship of the Chairperson of the Municipality has been formed to monitor and extend hands-on support in terms of awareness generation, ensure City Sanitation and service delivery system.

    District Coordination Committee (DCC) under the chairmanship of the Collector and District Magistrate of Dhenkanal Municipality has been formed to oversee, review, monitor and guide the project implementation at the district level.

    Project Steering Committee (PSC) as an apex body of the project has been constituted at the state level under the chairmanship of the Commissioner-cum-Secretary to Government, Housing and Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha, to advise, oversee, monitor, review and guide the implementation of Project Nirmal in Dhenkanal Municipalities.

    The major initiative is to establish a Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP) to address the issue of treating the liquid waste from the toilet pits. The CSTF and DCC have proactively made it possible to allow the required size of land for the construction of the FSTP and necessary supports extended to the Project for early execution of the construction activity. The construction of the FSTP is going on at Dhenkanal Municipality. It is proposed to complete it by end of this year and commissioned in the beginning of next year which would address the safe disposal of liquid waste from the toilet pits. Hope, this would improve the sanitation profile of the city.

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  • Imagine bringing up your toddler here?

    I recently visited Kisumu, Kenya, where Practical Action is working with two local partner organisations (KUAP and Umande Trust) in a five-year project to transform the sanitation situation for 64,200 residents of the city’s informal settlements.

    Drains polluted with waste and human faeces, Obunga, Kisumu (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    We visited families to understand the extreme challenges faced by parents and carers looking after children under 5 years. As a Mum of two, the youngest of whom turns 6 next month, I could easily make comparisons. There are so many different stages babies, toddlers and children go through in those years, and so many challenges to keeping them healthy and happy. This area has been acknowledged as a blind spot within the already blind spot of understanding how to make progress on sanitation.

    If my children catch one of those nasty ‘winter vomiting bugs’ I know I’m in for a hard time. All that extra washing and cleaning up, and trying to bleach every surface I might have inadvertently contaminated.

    Now imagine dealing with 10 month-old twins with diarrhoea and vomiting with cloth nappies which have to be washed by hand, and where you can’t afford expensive cleaning products. No wonder the whole family got sick.

    Family from Obunga, Kisumu, with their older boy and one of their 10 month old twins (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Children are generally taken out of nappies far earlier in developing countries than in the UK – and it seems that can mean more accidents, that can be hard to clean up where floors are not just mud or concrete and not easily wiped.

    And when children are old enough to manage their own toileting, the pit latrines adults use are not places for children. They are often filthy with excrement on various surfaces, and not designed to be used with little legs. Parents would rather put down old newspapers for children, or get them to use a potty, with the contents disposed in the toilet. But then again, sometimes children have to be left while the parent is at work in which case they are more inclined to just use an open space outside.

    Latrines are often generally avoided by young children (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    This is not uncommon. In a global study in countries with poor sanitation, UNICEF found that over 50 percent of households with children under age three reported that the faeces of their children were unsafely disposed of. Even among households with improved toilets or latrines, some unsafe child faeces disposal behavior was reported by caregivers.

    Every time these children and carers want to wash their hands they need to get the basin, soap and container of water out separately. It’s enough of a struggle to remind my children to always wash their hands and that’s when the basin is right there with soap on hand.

    Handwashing (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Practical Action is working to transform the situation – using a combination of school-led and community-led total sanitation, which uses visual demonstrations to explain how an environment polluted with so much faeces is damaging everyone’s health. Encouraging handwashing and making it easier is also an important focus. We’ve been running the programme for a little over a year with good results so far, and action will be ramping up in the coming year. With the support of Public Health Officers and a cadre of amazingly motivated ‘natural leaders’ from the community we think the collective behaviour change needed will be ignited.

    As one Public Health Officer told me: “it’s one thing to force people to build toilets, but that’s not the answer. What matters is that they are used by everyone all the time.” And that’s the change we’re aiming for: a shit-free environment and a healthy future for Kisumu’s children.

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  • Success story of a water initiative


    April 19th, 2017

    Haladete-East is a village located 40 km North from the city of Kassala, Eastern Sudan. It is a home of over 4,800 people, from which 2,850 are women. This is a story of an amazing water initiative that benefited not only one family but the entire village of Haladete-East!

    Access to water has always been a serious problem in Haladete-East. Because there was no water nearby, people had to walk every day nearly three hours, through deserted roads, to collect water. Their only source of water was a remote hand-pump that was unreliable. The walks to collect water were tough and because of the heavy weight, only limited amount of water could be brought back to the village. Because of this, water could only be used to absolute necessities such as cooking and drinking.

    To solve the problem, Practical Action launched a project called Aqua4East. The project, funded by DFID, aimed to improve the water security for the benefit of the whole community. To do this, Practical Action needed to build a water tank that would be big enough to provide water for 4800 people!

    The first step in the project was to identify a location with a steady underground water supply (through hydrological studies and water catchment surveys). This ensured that the water supply would not run dry – even during the driest times. Once the right location was selected, Practical Action build the water tank, including two different distribution stations. One station was for women and the other for men. Each station included six water taps.

    What makes this project so special, is the substantial community engagement. With the help of Practical Action, people living in the village established a Water Committee that looked after the management of the water distribution, including financial management and preparations should a damage occur.

    Because of the Aqua for East initiative, the life of the people living in Haladete-East is now easier, healthier, more dignified and joyful. To summarise:

    1. People do not need to walk long distances to collect water anymore. They now have an easy access to clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. In addition, small scale farming and animal farming have benefited from the secured water supply.

    2. The initiative has had a tremendous impact on improved hygiene. Villagers are now able to wash their hands and shower more often, to do laundry and clean their homes. Furthermore, the food is less contaminated and diet more healthier due to in-house cultivated vegetables.

    3. More girls are going to school instead of collecting water. In addition, they have more time to socialise and participate in income generating activities.

    Nafish O’shak, one of the villagers, said: Before, the community health promoters used to give us strong hygiene advice, but without water we could not do what we were advised to do. Now we have sufficient water and we are very hygienic. Our clothes, food and houses are extremely clean.

    Is that a revolutionary impact or what?

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  • Talking shit at FSM4 Conference – Feedback on our sanitation work in Bangladesh

    Talking about shit for a week in India — a fascinating context to present our sanitation work! India, a country that has undertaken a huge and ambitious national scale clean-up campaign (Swachh Bharat/Clean India Mission), hosted the LOGO4th_faecal_sludge_management_conference4th Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) Conference in Chennai this February. In total, 1,100 practitioners, governments and private sector representatives from all over the world participated in the conference. This was a truly unique sharing and visibility opportunity for our organisation. As a result, we ran out of our latest Technology Justice paper on Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) on the second day of the conference!

    During the conference, we shared lessons from the preliminary operation of the business model we are implementing in Faridpur, Bangladesh, as part of the ‘Public Private Partnerships (PPP) for Sustainable Sludge Management Services’ project  (Gates Foundation – DFID funding). We also provided the community of practice with some key insights on the relevance of business modelling and market-based solutions in FSM, and received some excellent feedback from the participants, because we were addressing the following issues:

    Why work on FSM  The dreadful economic and health costs of poor sanitation

    The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program estimates the economic costs of poor sanitation in Bangladesh to be USD 4.2 billion each year. This was equivalent to 6.3 per cent of Bangladesh’s GNP in 2007! This shows that the health impacts dwarf the economic costs. In Bangladesh, open defecation has remarkably decreased to only 1 per cent (from 34 per cent in 1990). However, in most secondary towns, like Faridpur, there are no sewers. Residents rely on on-site sanitation, combined with unsafe FSM practices. In addition, 90 per cent of the sludge in Faridpur was not safely emptied or transported when we first assessed the situation in 2014. The absence of drainage or emptying facilities in the low-income settlements results in overflowing toilets, which simply leads to the problem of open defecation reoccurring! This is the main reason why we developed our programme in Bangladesh. This project now mixes hardware (e.g. treatment plant) and software solutions (e.g. private entrepreneurs and municipality partnership around FSM business).A national FSM framework to fill the legal vacuum in Bangladesh
    Bangladesh FSM NetworkThe health and economic risks presented above are what we call a “second-generation sanitation challenge”.  Bangladesh has achieved 99 per cent access to sanitation. However, the key challenge now is: how can both, public and private sector actors, safely manage all the sludge that is contained in these new on-site systems.  Practical Action and ITN-BUET (our partner University) work on developing viable business models for the problem. In addition, we have been developing a National Institutional and Regulatory Framework for FSM. This was inexistent in Bangladesh but is now being approved. This framework will significantly clarify roles for the municipalities in charge. It is now complemented by the strategic policy advocacy and knowledge dissemination; role played by the newly created National FSM Network, including I/NGOs, CSOs, government, private sector and industries. Practical Action was a key founder of this network.

    Lessons and highlights from the FSM4 Conference

    • Awareness raising and demand generation are the key to kick-start new FSM businesses.Street Drama, World Toilet Day
    • Early indications show, that pit-emptiers in Faridpur are now seeing an increase in demand. As a result, faecal waste is now safely disposed at the treatment plant. While some projects have tended to underestimate activities such as street drama, cycling events, cleanliness drives, quiz contests and cycle rallies. These have proven to be the central drivers of a progressive increase in revenue from pit-emptying. Further, they create a sense of ownership and environmental awareness. Increased demand for a trustworthy service demonstrates good potential for uptake of such models.

    • A cross-subsidised tariff system is required to attain a responsive service in these cities.

    Income that pit-emptiers get from fees cannot fully cover the cost of collecting, transporting, treating and disposing the sludge. This is why business models explore the possibilities to have other sources of revenues; such as a smart subsidy from the Municipality, and sales of co-compost from sludge in medium-long term.

    FSM Business ModelTaking a system’s approach helps seeing the bigger picture and to forsee interconnected issues.

      • Looking at FSM as a system (i.e. including all stakeholders, rules, norms beyond the mere service chain household-to-treatment plant) allowed the project team to see hidden strengths and blockages that would only have been uncovered later on. By doing so, the Faridpur project could:
        • Build on the informal sector as an existing and relatively efficient service provider and
        • Understand conflictive incentives in providing pit-emptying services.
        Practical Action is good at facilitating participatory and inclusive design of partnerships between Municipalities and the private sector,

    e.g. between FaridpurMunicipality, formalised pit-emptiers, and a treatment plant operator. Years of collaboration with municipalities have helped to build trust, and therefore, to facilitate the design of such business models that are flexible, modular and adaptable to how demand for pit-emptying evolves over time.

    Outstanding questions and food for thoughtPreliminary operation of the FSM business model, Faridpur, Bangladesh

    • The multi- stakeholder’s steering committee, set up in Faridpur Municipality to oversee the performance of the service, will play a key role in rolling out and scaling up the service – is it possible to use this model in other Water & Sanitation projects to ensure ownership and to take this approach to scale?
    • We should have a better understanding of pro-poor sanitation services in our projects. Our projects are focusing on scale and profitability, however the question of the affordability of emptying services for the poorest in Faridpur was raised by our peers.
    • Could we not complement our systems and business approach with a “Rights-Based Approach”? Human rights based approaches (HRBAs) are successfully used to build citizens’ capacity to claim this basic right to the Government.

    For more information about why our sanitation work matters, watch our Bangladesh Director Hasin Jahan’s TED Talk.

     

     

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  • Global Handwashing Day: Making handwashing a habit


    October 14th, 2016

    For many of us, washing our hands is a habit acquired from childhood. We unconsciously wash our hands after using the bathroom, eating and preparing meals.

    Teaching children how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    One of Practical Action’s projects – providing handwashing facilities and teaching children in Peru how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    But globally the hand washing habit has yet to completely solidify, mainly due to lack of soap and water or lack of awareness and understanding of its effectiveness in washing away illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

    That’s why on October 15, hundreds of thousands of schools, community groups, organizations, and governments will join together to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. It’s a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

    Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old.

    Every day, around 2,000 children die from diarrhoea. Simply washing hands with soap could reduce the number of these deaths by up to 50%, but many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health.

    This year, Practical Action is using Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

    Our team in Nakuru, Kenya, for example, is going to Hyrax Hill primary school to give 2,500 pupils and 500 community members a demonstration on how to wash their hands properly.

    Peter Murigi, Practical Action’s urban water, sanitation and hygiene specialist in Kenya, said: “We want to foster and support a culture of handwashing with soap, shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap at critical times.

    “This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is “Make handwashing a habit”. The event is a good opportunity to draw attention to the need for change, from individuals, families and governments and by asking for better hygiene policies and commitment to promote better hygiene practices.”

    In Bangladesh, we are partnering with other NGOs and the Bangladesh Government’s Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) to celebrate the day both centrally in Dhaka and locally. In Dhaka, we’re taking part in a campaign rally and a meeting organised by the DPHE as a co-organiser. Locally, we are the lead organisation in celebrating the day in three districts: Faridpur, Satkhira and Bagerhat.

    Practical Action delivers significant water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and we are ambitious to do more. We promote the community-led sanitation approach with partners and local governments, demonstrating best practice and developing innovative technologies for clean water and waste management. And we work with national and city governments to ensure that poor people are included in sanitation planning.

    In Nakuru we have delivered an ambitious project, funded by Comic Relief, to improve the quality of life for slum communities of 190,000 people, by providing access to safe, hygienic toilets and handwashing facilities. You can find out more about that project here and find out what Jack Owino, a headteacher of a school in Kenya, has to say about the impact it has had on staff and children at his school.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    In Bangladesh we have been working with UNICEF in 500 communities and 200 schools across Dhaka and Sylhet to improve sanitation and promote a change in hygiene behaviour.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    It has changed the lives of 70,000 students. They are healthier, happier, are able to attend school more regularly and their performance at school has improved. Find out more in this blog by Alamgir Chowdhury in our Bangladesh urban services team.

    Projects like this depend on your support. Please help us to work with communities around the world to prevent diseases and save lives and spread the word that more needs to be done to make handwashing a habit.

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  • Clean water and toilets for Nakuru school


    July 20th, 2016

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of a school in Nakuru, Kenya. He has worked there since 2012 and has worked with Practical Action and the Umande Trust to improve access to clean water, toilets and hygiene training for his 765 students.

    The students come from the nearby slums and Jack explains their home life as ‘difficult’. Most have little or no access to clean water and decent sanitation at home so it is important to Jack and his staff that the children do not have to worry about going to the toilet and can drink clean, safe water when they’re at school.

    Jack knows that having no access to water and sanitation at school affects attendance and he was determined to change this.

    Jack Owino Nukuru

    “In 2012, it was bad. We had one block of boys toilets and one block for girls. They were in a bad state. We now have two blocks each. Before, children had to run back home to go to the toilet, in the bush. They would run home and never come back. 

    “Bad sanitation at home meant that children were sick a lot. We now monitor their cleanliness. Water at home is contaminated but they are safe here. They are encouraged to go back to their communities and pass on their knowledge. They are agents of change.” 

    Water and sanitation is absolutely vital to keeping children in school and it has been amazing to see the change in the students at Jack’s school, they are happier, healthier and many are now going on to further education.

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  • Menstrual Hygiene Day

    Saturday 28th May is Menstrual Hygiene Day, a really important day to raise awareness of good menstrual hygiene and to break some of the taboos that surround something that affects half the population of the world!

    It’s sad that in 2016, women and girls are still made to feel ashamed by a natural bodily function. Girls are often held back from achieving their full potential aDanier Bangladesh SANIMARTs they are unable to attend school and it’s shocking to think that in some communities, girls are made to sleep in sheds, away from their home, when menstruating. It shouldn’t be this way.

    In August last year, I travelled to Bangladesh to see some of our work and to meet people who Practical Action is supporting. In Bangladesh, menstrual hygiene remains a taboo topic, sanitary products are rarely available and young girls are often too afraid to ask.

    I met 25 year old Danier who told me what it was like to be a woman in her community. She explained how women are considered ‘unclean’ during their periods, sanitary products are not available and girls are forced to hide away and use rags to soak up the blood. These rags are used over and over again. Washing and drying the rags is difficult, as they shouldn’t be seen by anyone. During this time, girls don’t attend school, because they are too afraid of blood leaking onto their clothes.

    But this is beginning to change. Danier spends her mornings – along with other women from her village – making and selling biodegradable and good quality sanitary products. The women not only make the products, they also encourage other women and girls to use them and are starting to break the silence around the issue. The women earn a small income from making the pads, which they are able to use to help pay for their education.

    Before this project, Danier explained that everyone was using rags but now, most of them are using the products she and her friends make!

    “I’m happy, I even use the product. I am helping other girls. No longer do they have to feel shy.”

    I was touched by how the project had empowered Danier. She felt she had a voice and was making a difference to the girls in her community. Menstruation should not be a taboo subject. Women and girls across the world should not feel ashamed by their periods. Hygiene education and sanitary products should be available to all wherever you live in the world.

     

     

     

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  • What if you don’t have a toilet, build one now !


    November 23rd, 2015

    “Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.” – E. F. Schumacher

    The curiosity was quiet evident on the faces of hundreds of people knowing the fact that, they were being gathered to celebrate World Toilet Day. People in general do not like to talk about ‘shit’ and that has been a global challenge now. Amidst the number of popular days such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Water Day and many others we celebrate one more addition is now for Toilet Day and yet people have apprehension about that.

    Yes, in a country like India where more than 50 per cent people defecate in open, talking about ‘shit’ is treated as shitty here. In such a contest there are instances and places where defecating in open is being treated as social and cultural practice. In many villages women actually get chance to mingle with themselves while they go toilet to open field at the dawn.

    Mobile-Toilets-in-IndiaBreaking the barrier of such myths, Practical Action has been advocating for better sanitation practices. In its major initiative in urban wash, in India Practical Action has started intervening in the faecal sludge management for two major urban municipalities. Newly launched Project Nirmal is targeting on a holistic approach to fight against the menace of poor sanitation practices and also exhibiting a model faecal sludge disposal mechanism in both the cities.

    So on 19 March 2015, two major events were organised on the eve of World Toilet Day in both the cities such as Angul and Dhenkanal. women SHG members, school children and civil society members joined in large numbers to mark the occasion. In Angul, the Municipality Chairperson and other council members along with the executive officer graced the occasion and shared how the importance of toilet in public life is now a much-talked topic and why it is needed to have toilets.

    Issues starting from girls and women defecating only during dark like before sunrise and after sunset leading to social security is now a concern everywhere. There are instances of molestation of young girls midnight and also instances of life loss by insects such as snakes and other insecticides.

    There have been constant health hazards such as diarrhoea and children in india are being growing stunted because of open defecation. All these things were the points of discussion while the district collector and municipal chairperson and other senior officials in Dhenkanal urged to build toilet as an essential part of daily life. Like mobiles and other necessities toilet is something which every household must have and all the guests vowed for a message of toilet for all.

    This was also added by Practical Action representative talking about the proper disposal mechanism of human excreta and faeces by setting up a proper faecal sludge management system in both the cities with the help of municipalities and efficient community participation.

     

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  • World Toilet Day 2015: good news and bad news

    But Mummy, I CAAAAN’T WAIT – the familiar cry for anyone with children. Fortunately we live in a place where a safe, clean toilet our children can easily use, with soap and water on hand, is never far away.

    But this basic human right is not available to everyone. #wecantwait is the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day on 19th November.

    BAD NEWS: The 2015 JMP report finds that 2.4 billion people are still without access to improved sanitation facilities and 946 million still defecating in the open. Schools and health centres also frequently lack these basic facilities.

    GOOD NEWS: Globally, progress has been made, and we should celebrate this. In 1990 only 61 countries had more than 90% of their population with access to improved sanitation. In 2015, there are 97 countries that have reached that milestone.

    BAD NEWS: However, in urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa the situation has worsened over the last few years, as provision of sanitation has failed to keep up with population growth. There was a decline in water or sanitation coverage in urban areas in 14 out of 46 countries between 1990 and 2015. There are large inequalities in access within urban areas according to wealth, and while in many countries, the gap is closing, that is only happening slowly.

    We know this matters because the health burden of poor sanitation in urban areas can be particularly acute. It has been linked to child malnutrition and stunting as a result of recurrent bouts of diarrhoea. The difficulties for women to find a safe, dignified place to use a toilet and in particular to deal hygienically and discretely with menstruation are often enormous.

    GOOD Beautiful toiletNEWS: is that governments and donors have been trying to catalyse change, and put more focus on sanitation. The Sanitation and Water for All partnership brings together over 90 country governments, external support agencies, civil society organisations and others to catalyse political leadership and action. The last set was agreed in April 2014, with commitments made by 43 countries and 12 donors.

    Many of the country commitments were about strengthening the enabling environment, and so did not focus on particular targets or segments of the population. On the other hand, countries were encouraged to focus in particular on reducing inequalities and improving sustainability. In three-quarters of country overarching visions there was a recognition of the elimination of socio-economic or geographic inequalities, and 27 countries made a total of 58 commitments to eliminating inequalities.

    BAD NEWS: However there were still only 34 commitments (11%) which mentioned the word ‘urban’ and only 6 (2%) which made specific reference to poor urban communities or urban inequalities. One commitment referred to tackling faecal sludge management which is a key part of the urban sanitation challenge.

    In September this year, the global community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 6 tackles water, sanitation and hygiene, and within that Target 6.2 is about sanitation:

    Target 6.2: By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

    To be measured as: Percentage of population using safely managed sanitation services

    Which means: Population using a basic sanitation facility (current JMP categories for improved sanitation) which is not shared with other households and where excreta is safely disposed in situ or transported to a designated place for safe disposal or treatment

    This goal is ambitious. We have a long way to go in achieving even basic sanitation for all, and only 15 years to achieve it. At the next high level meeting of SWA in April 2016, we would love to see more commitments with a specific focus on the urban poor, and on the safe disposal, transportation and treatment of excreta.

    Practical Action has been working on these issues on the ground for a number of years, and has decades of experience of working with the urban poor in Africa and Asia. We have exciting work on faecal sludge management in particular with urban poor communities in South Asia. We are committed to sharing our learning ensuring a wider adoption. Based on this experience we are calling for:

    • The SDGs, to measure and prioritise access to basic sanitation for all, while in urban slums in particular, work towards safely managed sanitation which will actually lead to improved health.
    • Data disaggregation which helps us understand the global progress (or lack of it) on sanitation for the urban poor – welcoming the work already done on this by JMP
    • More countries and donors to make commitments specifically for the urban poor in the next round of Sanitation and Water for All and at the South Asian Conference on sanitation in January 2016.
    • More and better quality engagement with civil society organisations in sanitation planning at national and local levels
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