In commemoration of the International Women’s Day 2019, WaterAid Nigeria and UNICEF have collaboratively introduced a new Water Sanitation and Hygiene -WASH Guide for the urban poor.
In a joint statement released yesterday 8th March, by the two organisations, it was stated that the requirements of women and girls are too often ignored in the planning and design of public toilets, leaving them unable to use the toilet where and when needed, a new guide from WaterAid, UNICEF and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor has highlighted this International Women’s Day.
Around 450 million women around the world defecate in the open, and millions of others use shared toilets that are often not hygienic or safe. For them, going to the toilet means an increase in their risk of harassment and attack.
According to Oluseyi Abdulmalik, Communications and Media Manager, WaterAid Nigeria, “There’s no denying that the world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality, but despite men’s role in the society being more varied and gender roles being more fluid, in most societies women and girls are still responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene related chores in their households. They have to source for water for their families, they are responsible for taking care of other family members who come down with WASH related diseases, and they also risk their lives in search of safe places to defecate and manage themselves during their menstruation.
“The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day #BalanceForBetter is at the core of WaterAid’s vision and work – a world where everyone, everywhere has access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene – particularly for women and girls who bear the brunt of the burden caused by a lack of access to these basic and life-saving services.
Abdulmalik added that “Negative effects on health, safety, working life and the ability to participate in public life should no longer be tolerated as normal. This new guide provides practical steps for local authorities to address those barriers and to ensure that everyone can enjoy their right to decent sanitation. We need to act now to ensure the safety and well-being of all women and indeed other marginalised groups.”
Since 2016, several reports have shown, that as many as 1 in 3 people on the planet don’t have a decent toilet of their own. In sub-Saharan Africa, this number is even higher at 72 percent of the population. While having a toilet at home is crucial, public toilets are important for people who are out and about, and community toilets may be the only option in places where household toilets are not yet feasible.
Each Nigerian that practices open defecation spends approximately 2.5 days a year finding a private location to defecate, leading to millions of dollars in economic losses – a cost that falls disproportionately on women and girls. The costs are likely even higher as those without toilets, particularly women and girls, will be obliged to find a private location for urination as well.
The lack of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in schools is a major contributor to the 11.6% literacy gap between young men and women in Nigeria. Many girls will typically miss up to five days of school a month — more than a month of school a year because of a lack of WASH services and education. This has a significant impact on girls’ academic performance, with some dropping out of school altogether.
High-quality public and community toilets which take into account women’s requirements could alleviate this problem. The Female-friendly Public and Community Toilets Guide, written jointly by WaterAid, UNICEF and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), covers six requirements for female-friendly toilets: safety and privacy; allowing for menstrual hygiene management; accessibility; affordability and availability; good maintenance and management; and meeting the requirements of caregivers.
Among the recommendations are access to water and soap for cleaning hands or the body and for washing out reusable sanitary products, a place to dispose of sanitary protection, a hook for hanging clothes or putting belongings, and a sturdy lock on the cubicle door and adequate lighting in the block and on the path leading to the toilet.