When Darkness Falls: Security and Women’s Access to Sanitation
Imagine its night and nature calls. The nearest toilet is more than 200 meters away and, given the high risk of sexual assault and rape, it is too dangerous for you to walk there. What do you do?
For women in Mukuru, there is no choice. You chose to defecate in a polythene bag in the privacy of your own home and then wait until the morning to discreetly and properly dispose of it. This is the harsh reality that residents of urban informal settlements have to grapple with on a daily basis. It also puts women in a vicious cycle of indignity and humiliation. Walking the alleyways of Mukuru is a task in itself for anyone who does not know their way around the densely populated slum. Under the cover of darkness, criminals tend to choose their most vulnerable targets: women.
One such resident is Rose Atieno. “When I came to Mukuru 9 years ago, I would hear incidences of women who had been attacked when going to the toilet at night – this made me very scared.” Rose adds that the toilets were few and far between, policing and lighting were inadequate, and this all made it very difficult for many residents to access them.
For Rose, things are changing for the better. This is mostly because of Fresh Life Operator Rhoda Kavilia, who recently opened a Fresh Life Toilet near Rose’s home. In our work with the Mukuru community, we have discovered that at night, women demand toilets to be as close to where they are living. We aim for that to be less than 25 meters away. They also really want them to be clean and so we ensure that operators maintain the quality of the toilet through a strict franchise agreement.
Rhoda Kavilia tells of the amazing difference that the toilets have made to the women living nearby. “My female customers are so happy that they can access the toilet even at night because the alternative was using a flying toilet. No one wants to risk being raped or attacked by criminals.” Now, women like Rose, feel safe, worry less about their children, and have their dignity restored.
We strive for every woman in Mukuru to feel the same way.