Saturday 31 July 2010

Sanitation and gender

Here’s a really good report published by Amnesty International on 7 July: Insecurity and Indignity: Women’s Experiences in the Slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Quote:

The majority of Nairobi’s residents live in informal settlements and slums, in inadequate housing with little access to clean water, sanitation, health care, schools and other essential public services.
Women and girls living in these informal settlements are particularly affected by lack of adequate access to sanitation facilities for toilets and bathing. Not only do women have different physical needs from men, (for example, related to menstruation) but they also have greater need of privacy when using toilets and when bathing. Inadequate and inaccessible toilets and bathrooms, as well as the general lack of effective policing and insecurity, make women even more vulnerable to rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Violence against women is endemic in Nairobi’s slums and settlements, goes widely unpunished and significantly contributes to making and keeping women poor.
Recent positive attempts by the government to improve access to essential services in informal settlements do not address the immediate needs for access to essential public services, including sanitation. Nor do the proposed solutions fully take into account the specific needs of women and girls in these settlements.
This report shows that for many women living in informal settlements, poverty is both a consequence and a cause of violence. Many women who suffer physical, sexual or psychological violence lose income as a result and their productive capacity is impaired. Violence against women also impoverishes their families, communities and societies. For women in abusive relationships, poverty makes it harder to find avenues for an escape. While economic independence does not shield women from violence, access to economic resources can enhance women’s capacity to make meaningful choices. The violence women face helps keep them poor in part because their poverty inhibits their ability to find solutions.

There’s also a good article on this in the 10 July issue of The Economist: Sexual equality and sanitation: Flushing away unfairness. Quote:

In poorer countries unequal provision [of toilets] means more than just discomfort. Studies in countries such as Ghana and Cameroon suggest many girls at secondary school miss a week of classes when they have their period, or drop out altogether when they reach puberty. Rude boys plus inadequate or missing girls’ toilets make calls of nature embarrassing or outright dangerous. In India some 330m women lack access to toilets. Many wait until night, raising the risk of rape, kidnap and snake bites.

The article goes on to make the point that, in public/communal places, women need more toilets than men – a point made in the 2003 ABC radio programme Bathroom Blues (this is a .ram audio file, so to listen to it you’ll need RealPlayer on your computer). See also this photo of public toilets at a market in Mozambique.