Celebrating healthy, prosperous communities: The Fresh Life Toilet users’ perspective (Part 1)

Happy World Toilet Day! Sanergy is ecstatic to be celebrating four years of providing hygienic sanitation to the residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements.

Over the years, we have remained committed to providing access to a clean, hygienic, and safe toilet for our customers. Our users are at the heart of the work we do, and on this World Toilet Day, we want to share a few of their stories.

Consolata Nyaguthii and her husband Paul Kihara have lived in Nairobi’s Mukuru Kwa Reuben for six years. They are small-scale entrepreneurs; Paul operates a boda boda (motorcycle) transport business in Nairobi’s Central Business District, while Consolata sells second hand clothes in the busy Muthurwa market.

Consolata was born and raised in Nyahururu. She always admired relocating to the city for better chances at employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Back in her village, people often used the woods on the outskirts of town as their toilet. While not ideal, there was the space for a separate area where people did their business. When she moved to Nairobi’s Mukuru Kwa Reuben, however, she could not believe that this same practice was ongoing; only this time, people used plastic bags that were then thrown into the river or on well-trafficked paths.

Consolata shares her shocking experience and how this practice has changed for the better.

When you came to Mukuru, did you have trouble accessing toilet facilities?

No, where I lived in Sinai, we had access to a makeshift pit latrine provided by our landlord. However, this latrine was unhygienic and dirty. During the rainy season for instance, it often clogged and overflowed, rendering it unusable. When this happened, we had to walk quite a distance to access the nearest public toilet. The majority of people, therefore, resorted to the use of plastic bags, particularly at night for fear of being mugged trying to access toilets.

When did you first learn about the Fresh Life Toilet?

In 2012, one of my neighbors installed the facility. I had seen the eye-catching blue structures around Mukuru but had no idea that they were toilets.

Consolata Nyaguthii
Consolata and her family use Fresh Life Toilets on a daily basis.

Elaborate on your first experience using the facility.

Initially I was confused: I had never seen a toilet that does not use water to flush out poop! When I asked, I was taught how it works and the proper way to use it.

Do you frequently use the Fresh Life Toilet?

All the time! Two years ago, we moved from Sinai to Katoto area within Mukuru. Here, we have access to a commercial Fresh Life Toilet located next to our home. I also spend most of my day in the Muthurwa market, selling clothes. There are lots of Fresh Life Toilets, used by traders and buyers during the day.

What do you like most about Fresh Life Toilet facilities?

First, Fresh Life Operators serve their customers with professionalism and courtesy. I have never heard anyone speak rudely to me whenever I have visited the facility.

I also like that the facility is odorless and clean. I feel less likely to get sick or contract an infection from Fresh Life Toilets.

Lastly, the facility offers privacy and convenience for me as a lady. In the toilet there is a sanitary bin, a hook on which to hang my handbag, and even a mirror! In most other public toilets, these little comforts are unavailable.

Approximately, how much does your household spend on toilet use?

My husband and I are charged four shillings per use, while our 10-year-old son is charged two shillings per use.

Is this expensive for you?

No. Compared to the flush toilets that charge five or ten shillings per use for everyone, including children, it is cheaper. Also the excellent services available at the Fresh Life Toilets make it worthwhile.

It’s been three years since you began seeing Fresh Life Toilets in your area. Do you see any difference in your environment?

Yes, there is a huge change. As a result of many Fresh Life Toilets evenly distributed in Mukuru, I have not come across any flying toilets or used sanitary towels littered along pathways and corridors of residential areas. A few years ago, walking at night was unpleasant because it was difficult to avoid stepping on flying toilets on the paths. I wouldn’t let my son go out to play for fear that he would contract diarrhea or cholera from contaminated water and flying toilets. Today, by contrast, it is safe, and even children rarely fall sick from such illnesses.

Consolata and Hannah Muthoni
Consolata and Hannah “Mama Gathoni” Muthoni, her nearest Fresh Life Operator

Promoting good hygienic practices is at the heart of our work. Have you seen this visible in your interaction with the Fresh Life Toilet?

Absolutely. In every Fresh Life Toilet there is a hand washing station, which often reminds us to wash our hands. At my son’s school where Fresh Life Toilets are available, I have noticed immense improvement in the hygiene and cleanliness of the school compound. I am not worried because my son is safe at school.

Finally, any message for the Fresh Life team?

All those who work at the Fresh Life Toilets do an excellent job. We are grateful. Mama Gathoni, in particular, serves my household at all times. A big “thank you” to her!

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