World Toilet Day: Everyone Goes But Not Everyone Has a Place to Go

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VIP (1)

By Women’s Earth Alliance, GWWI Director, Gemma Bulos
Believe it or not, there are more people in the world that have cell phones than toilets! Which means more people can make a phone call or send a text than access a toilet. This has significant impact on public health. Biological contamination and the presence of feces in water is one of the highest causes of diarrhea and water-related disease causing millions of people to lose their lives every year.

But the issues that arise because of lack of toilets extends beyond health – it impacts safety, security and even education, especially women and girls. Women and girls are the most affected by the lack of sanitation because they are at risk of violent attacks when they don’t have a private or safe place. Many women and girls will withhold consuming food or drink during the day so they will not have to relieve themselves in the daylight. 1 out of 8 girls drop out of school by the 8th grade when they start menstruating because there are no toilets.

But sanitation is not just about toilets.  Women leaders who are participating in the Global Women’s Water Initiative WASH Service Center Training Program understand these challenges and have identified sanitation as one of their priorities in their communities. This past July, they learned to build two different kinds of waterless toilets – for safe storage of feces, and menstruation cleaning bays – so women and girls can clean themselves when they have they are menstruating. They also learned to make reusable sanitary pads as well as soap, shampoo and perfume.


Take the enzymatic digester, for example. One of the most common toilets in developing countries are pit latrines. In some communities, pit latrines exist, but they are unusable, as they are full of human waste and often shut down or locked as a result. The toilet digester is an enzymatic powder that can break  down and eliminate waste in a pit latrine within 24 hours for a fraction of what it would cost to build another toilet or hire a company to extract the waste. This product is a solution for existing full toilets and can rejuvenate otherwise unused toilets. And we are discovering that participating women trainees can sell it and make a profit.

GWWI graduates now have an array of appropriate tools to start their own micro-businesses. They are being hired to build toilets and sell sanitation and hygiene-related products. Most importantly, the knowledge doesn’t end here. Our partners are helping other women do the same.

On World Toilet Day, we reflect on the courageous steps our colleagues are taking in their communities to ensure people’s safety and dignity on this day and every day.youngest-participant-lays-bricks-for-VIP-toilet

The Tragic Cost of Depending on Firewood

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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Photo: Premium Times
Photo: Premium Times

In Nigeria, 72 percent of the population suffer the severe consequences of depending solely on fuel wood as their main source of heat for cooking. Furthermore, smoke from firewood is the third greatest killer of women and children in the country. According to the World Health Organization, in 2012, 93,300 deaths occurred in Nigeria as a result of smoke from traditional biomass stoves.

After malaria and HIV/AIDS, smoke is the biggest killer of mostly women and children.

“In addition to this health problem, traditional biomass stoves burn 90 per cent more wood than is necessary. This has cost poor families and institutions money that could be put to better use on education, health, and nutrition.”

Moreover, as there continues to be an increase in the percent of the population face poverty, there is a reversal in the move toward more efficient forms of energy, and many Nigerian families are in fact, “climbing down the energy ladder, moving from electricity, gas and kerosene to fuel-wood and other traditional biomass energy forms.”

Read the full the article here.

Mary Saves $1000s With Clean Water

Project: Women Building a Water Movement in East Africa

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Mary in her organic garden
Mary in her organic garden

Meet Mary, a businesswoman who sells clothes in a small shop and lives in a small house in Matejo, a slum area in Arusha, Tanzania. A few years back she had an operation on her back and was advised by her doctor to take safe water only. She was also told not to take boiled or bottled water.  Following her doctor’s unusual prescription, she sought alternative options to treat her water.  After trying a few local options and not liking them because they still made her nauseous, she found out about the Biosand water filter from Anna Anatoli of ANEPO, a GWWI graduate who was selling this new water treatment in Arusha.

Anna learned how to build the Biosand Filter at the GWWI Women and Water Training and brought it back to her community to start a small micro-enterprise.

Mary attended an ANEPO Health and Wellness Training which was a 2-day Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Training educating the community about the benefits of good hygiene, promoting the Biosand filters (BSF) as an option for clean water, and the benefits of planting organic food for healthy eating. Here she learned how important it was not only to have safe water for drinking, but for cooking, cleaning dishes, hand washing and bathing. Mary was immediately impressed by the BSF because it could remove up to 97-99% of bacteria and it could produce over 100 liters of water per day – enough for her whole family to have safe water for all their water-related activities.

Mary’s son next to the BSF with a safe storage container on top

Before buying the Biosand Filter, when someone in her family fell sick from typhoid from the contaminated tap water piped to her house from the municipality, she would end up spending much of her pay on treatment, which made it difficult for her to save money. Because she had 14 people living in her household, she could spend sometimes up to 500,000TSH (approx.: $350) per week on medicines and hospital visits – not to mention lost wages from missing work. After having the BSF for 7 months, there has not been one incidence of typhoid in her family since they installed the filter.

GWWI African Field Team with Mary and neighbors
GWWI African Field Team with Mary and neighbors

Mary is so grateful to have been relieved from the financial burdens of water related illnesses that have held herself and her family back from opportunities.  Based on ANEPOs Health and Wellness Program she also learned how to grow organic vegetables in recycled grain bags in the small spaces in front of and next to her home. Thanks to GWWI graduate Anna Anatoli and ANEPO, Mary has clean water, healthy food and is thriving!

Visit GWWI’s website for more.

GWWI Women and Water On Wednesdays: Katosi Women’s Development Trust Wins the 3rd Kyoto World Water Grand Prize!

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CONGRATULATIONS are in order! Global Women’s Water Initiative is thrilled to share that our resource partner Katosi Women’s Development Trust (KWDT) has just won the 3rd Kyoto World Water Grand Prize at the World Water Forum in Marseilles, France!
KWDT Co-ordinator Margaret Nakato receiving the prize
KWDT Co-ordinator Margaret Nakato receiving the prize
KWDT is such an incredible organization. KWDT enables rural women to effectively manage their social, economic and political development processes for improved livelihoods.  It started out as a small fish farming project with a single women’s group in Katosi and has since evolved into a network of 16 groups with 365 women! Since its inception 15 years ago KWDT has listened to the voices of their women’s groups and expanded their focus beyond fish farming into organic farming and sustainable agriculture production, animal husbandry, women’s maternal health, HIV/AIDS and of course WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene).  They further enhance these programs by supporting the women to create livelihoods with these skills and tools.
In terms of WASH, KWDT takes the provision of water and sanitation to a whole other level as they train some of their members in basic masonry skills to be able to build various WASH technologies. Through KWDTs micro-credit program, women can purchase a rainwater harvesting tank, a biosand filter and/or a composting toilet which will be built by their fellow members. The implementing members challenge gender stereotypes and get paid for their construction services and even dress the part!
KWDT building tanks
KWDT building tanks
For their innovation, KWDT was awarded the Best Performing WASH organization in Uganda two years running in 2008 and 2009!
In our partnership, both GWWI and KWDT knew there was so much we could learn from each other. At the GWWI training in Kampala last year KWDT contributed and participated in a multitude of different ways. Margaret Nakato, Co-ordinator of KWDT shared KWDTs inspirational evolution and hosted our Advanced Training Team who paid a visit to some of KWDTs women’s groups. GWWI Trainers in Training were able to interview some of the women implementers who built the technologies, and were also excited to see how many women were able to access all of KWDTs services. We were able to visit schools and households where KWDT implementers built tanks, filters, hand-washing stations, dish dryers and toilets.  We also delighted in homemade frozen yogurt made from cow and goat milk that was bought from women who benefitted from the KWDT animal husbandry project.  It was so thrilling to see women helping women in a way that was demand-driven and benefitted the entire community while providing livelihoods for women to uplift themselves and their families.
KWDT site visit
KWDT site visit
Also, KWDT sent Immaculate Nansubuga, KWDT Junior Project Officer, who attended our Advanced Training Program as a Trainer in Training whom I hope you met in one of our past blogs from July 2011. Immaculate deepened her skills as a WASH facilitator and trainer adding more tools to her stable of WASH skills like water testing with the PML and the construction of the Biosand filter.
Mastula & Rose
Mastula & Rose
Finally, the Founder who started the original KWDT Program, Namaganda Mastula and her colleague Namukasa Rose participated in the Grassroots Women’s Training. Mastula and Rose attended to learn the Biosand Filter, which is currently only offered in a few KWDT target areas with the intention of spreading it across the regions of all 16 KWDT teams who are interested.  More about Mastula and Rose in a future blog!
With the kind of endurance, innovation and stellar leadership that KWDT exemplifies everyday, it’s no wonder they are being honored at the highest level of recognition in their country and the world. Brava KWDT!
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Denying Justice: The endless fight of the Lubicon Cree

Project: Convening Advocates for Protection of Indigenous Lands and People

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Aerial view of the Lubicon Cree land Source: Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace
Aerial view of the Lubicon Cree land
Source: Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace

For over a century the Lubicon Cree people of northern Alberta, Canada, have been fighting against the Canadian government to protect the 10,000 square kilometers of forests, plains, rivers and muskeg, or wetlands, they call home. Treaties have been signed and violated, construction of extractive industry manufacturing plants have invaded the territory, and millions of liters of oil have destroyed the fragile ecosystem that is the muskeg. The people who were once able to support themselves amidst the clean air, water and land that was full of animals, plants, medicines and berries have been polluted and drained, and the people are now more than ever dependent on government social services. All this is compounded by the fact that the Lubicon Cree have been unable to finalize a land claim in court, due to the Canadian government’s determination to keep the proceedings in limbo owing to the lush and varied natural resources that exist within its borders.

How many more communities have to be put at risk for this type of development, and who is really benefiting? What are we leaving to future generations? We need to shift away from a fossil fuel-based system and push for renewable energy systems that enable us to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining.