Gender implications of inadequate sanitation in Kampala
According to the World Category:Health Organization, sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feaces http://www.who.int/topics/sanitation/en/. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease worldwide and improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities. However, according to the United Nations Millenium Development Goals report 2011, over two and a half billion people still lack access to improved sanitation http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/11_MDG%20Report_EN.pdf).Women being the main users and managers of sanitation facilities are considered to be essential in improving the sanitation status world over but since they do not have major decision-making powers and resources, their role is often limited.It is important for sanitation and hygiene programmes not only to focus on what women can do to improve sanitation but also what are the consequences of inadequate sanitation for women.
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Status of sanitation in Kampala
Kampala is the largest city and capital of Uganda . Uganda is a landlocked country located in Eastern Africa. It is bordered to the East by Kenya , to the north by South Sudan , to the west by the Democratic Gender Equality in the Republic of Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda , and to the south by Tanzania . According to the 2012 Statistical Abstract, Kampala had 1.72 million people by mid 2012 http://www.ubos.org/index.php?st=pagerelations2&id=31. According to UN-Habitat, 60 % of Kampala’s population live in slums and only 16% of slum dwellers have access to improved sanitation UN-HABITAT (2007). Situational Analysis of informal Settlements in Kampala: Cities without slums sub-regional programme for eastern and southern: kivulu (Kagugube) and Kinawataka (mbuya 1) Parishes. Nairobi:UN-HABITAT. . The Ministry of Water and Environment Sector Performance report (2010) attributes the development of slums and informal settlements in urban areas, especially in Kampala, which accounts for 35% of the urban population of Uganda to rapid urbanisation http://www.mwe.go.ug/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&Itemid=0&gid=62, These informal settlements and slums are characterised by poor sanitation practices. Many people do not have access to safe and private latrines and have to resort to rudimentary methods like open defecation or plastic bags commonly known as flying toilets. Most of the people in these areas are discouraged by the lack of Access to property and high prices from investing in improved sanitation facilities. The majority of Kampala’s poor (70%)households are tenants, only 30% of households own the houses they live in http://www.nadel.ethz.ch/publikationen/Kampala_Policy_Brief.pdf.
Inadequate sanitation puts a greater burden on women than men. Although there is common knowledge that the major impacts of poor and inadequate sanitation are diseases like diahorrea, women look at inadequacy beyond disease. According to the UN Millenium project, they can also be deprived of their right to dignity, privacy and safety UN Millenium Project (2005) Health,dignity and development: what will it take? Task Force on Water and Sanitation.London:UNDP.. Most slum dwellers rely on onsite sanitation facilities, which in most cases are located outside the house. Women, especially those living in slums, are exposed to humiliation and physical violence when travelling to communal latrines since these latrines are usually far from their homes and are shared by many people. According to a briefing note by “Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity” (Share) entitled “Security and Shame”, a study was conducted in Kampala in 2011 to explore whether women are exposed to humiliation, violence and rape as a result of inadequate toilet facilities http://www.wateraid.org/documents/insecurity_and_shame_uganda_final_low_res.pdf. Some of the findings from this study are stated below. The findings which are representative of many slum dwellings in Kampala are as follows:
- There were not enough toilets to meet the needs of the population, meaning the available toilets were over-used and therefore filled up quickly. Most toilet facilities lacked facilities such as rubbish bins for the disposal of used menstrual pads or water for washing. This is demoralising and deprives a woman of her dignity since the toilet is considered the most private part in such communities for women to manage their menstrual periods. Menstruation is a natural process that occurs monthly in health adoloscent girls and pre-menopausal adult women. Girls begin to menstruate between the ages of 9 and 12. During a life time, a woman will manage menstruation on an average of 3,000 days http://www.irc.nl/page/40593, therefore it is important for menstrual hygiene to be incorporated in education curriculum right from an early stage in life to cause a sustainable impact among community members (both male and female).
- Since toilets are inadequate and far away from homes, because of fear of violence and rape at night, people in these dwellings resort to using alternative options such as using buckets or “flying toilets” which are these plastic bags thrown from the home to dispose of waste. This practice is dirty and demoralising. It is a cause of shame to many women given the fact that they have to defecate in their homes in the presence of their families. Women felt shame because they felt the use of home toilets dirtied their homes and exposed their families and neighbours to diseases. This shame was extended to menstruation. Shame was also related to rape.
- Women are responsible for managing scant household finances, meaning that they have to decide whether to spend money on toilets for their family or to resort to other options such as “home toilets”. Men are more likely to leave the community for work during the day and therefore have access to more or better toilets.
- Men need less privacy and can urinate in the open without any sort of stigma, whereas women need a toilet both to urinate and defecate. This also meant that men needed the use of the toilet less and were not faced often with problems such as high latrine user fees or having to use a communal toilet. Women also expressed their feeling that men would be able to resist potential attacks, making them less vulnerable than women travelling within the community after nightfall.
Sanitation for the urban poor often lacks an institutional home http://www.wsp.org/wsp/sites/wsp.org/…/WSP-gender-water-sanitation.pdf. Local Governments,landlords and tenants have few incentives to invest in quality services within informal settlements, including sanitation facilities, resulting into households sharing a few on-site latrines or relying on communally managed paying toilets. Given the cost implication, most of the urban poor who reside in such areas opt not to use the improved sanitation facility. Also, poorly designed toilets result into pit latrines with wide drop holes. This creates a fear that children may fall into the toilets. As a result, women and children opt for polythne bags or “flying toilets”. Given the above scenerio, in order to adress gender inequalities in access to sanitation, it is important for the central governments, local governments, the private sector and local women’s groups to create partnerships to overcome technical and financial barriers to women accessing sanitation. These activities should incorporate an aspect of menstrual hygiene since it is one of the unavoidable gender issues that araises and it continues in a females life time therefore it can not be avoided or taken for granted.
Secondly, women should be involved in major decision-making and planning of sanitation facilities. This would help in ensuring safety in access to and from the household to communal toilets. women are more knowledgeable about these facilities since they are their major managers and users.
The inputs of men, women and mixed groups should also be taken into consideration since people in the community have complementary roles in planning, decision-making and implementation of sanitation activities.
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