Defining the sanitation needs of women

Defining the sanitation needs of women
Defining the sanitation needs of women

In a survey of public sector employees of sanitation-related institutions, we found that a majority of the respondents, regardless of their gender, agree that women have different and specific needs with regard to sanitation access. These differences were perceived to be mainly because of the biological make-up of the sexes, with women’s sanitation needs covering MHM. The need for privacy and more frequent access to toilets than men were other important aspects of differentiated sanitation needs, as identified by the respondents. The same factors were echoed in the interviews, with men and women noting: “Each person has needs and for women it is more complex and their needs are more”, “The needs of men and women are different. Probably men have alternative access outside of their homes, but not for women and kids”.

As part of our research on gender inequities in the sanitation sector in Kenya, we wanted to know, from among those working in the sector, and especially from among the leadership in the sector, how did they define the sanitation needs of women? And for men working in the sector, and women working in the sector, did they have different definitions? Given that there is gender inequity in employment among public sector institutions working in sanitation, it could be that having fewer women would lead to lapses or gaps in sanitation policy and programming when it comes to the needs of women. Among workers in public-sector sanitation-related institutions, there were relatively small differences in how men and women define the sanitation needs of women.

Athena Infonomics-Infographic-adequate & sanitation access

Based on the survey and interview responses, we identified six major features that were deemed essential for ensuring adequate and full sanitation access: (i) secure toilets, (ii) toilets that are safely accessible and without fear of physical or sexual violence from animals or human, (iii) toilets that are easily accessible and at a reasonable distance, (iv) facilities that offer privacy, (v) toilets that are affordable to construct, use and maintain and (vi) sanitation facilities that have proper means of sanitary napkin disposal and other features of effective menstrual hygiene management.

Zachary Burt
Zachary earned his PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. He then completed his postdoctorate at Columbia University and a Fulbright Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay. His research has focused on access, equity and affordability in water and sanitation systems. This incorporated considerations of climate adaptation, sustainability and public health.