The myths of an appropriate sanitation: perceptions and experiences of the urban poor


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STEPS Water & Sanitation Symposium

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The myths of an appropriate sanitation: perceptions and experiences of the urban poor

  1. 1. The myths of an appropriate sanitation: perceptions and experiences of the urban poor Deepa Joshi, Ben Fawcett & Fouzia Mannan
  2. 2. <ul><li>Environment & Urbanization Copyright © 2011 International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Vol 23(1): 1–21 </li></ul><ul><li>Joshi, D, J Morgan and B Fawcett (2005), Sanitation for the Urban Poor: Whose Choice, Theirs or Ours? unpublished research report prepared for DFID </li></ul><ul><li> . </li></ul>
  3. 3. Sanitation politics and the urban poor <ul><li>Sanitation: obscure health-efficiency agenda </li></ul><ul><li>JMP definition: facilities which hygienically separate human faeces from human contact </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Access is access to any means of safe excreta disposal; coupled with hand washing: ENORMOUS health benefits’ </li></ul><ul><li>Scarce finances to be used for ‘marketing sanitation and promoting behaviour change’ </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage/ blame/ shame users to invest in and use ‘toilet-boxes and wash hands’ </li></ul><ul><li>… trickle down to behaviour change in all…connections to [urban] public networks </li></ul>
  4. 4. Whose agenda, whose priorities? <ul><li>‘ Gender issues in sanitation for the urban poor’ </li></ul><ul><li>Urban poor? </li></ul><ul><li>Sanitation – defecation facilities/health? </li></ul><ul><li>When is provision adequate and dignified? And who decides? (Penner 2010) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Methodology <ul><li>Longitudinal ethnography – ‘ deep hanging out’ (Hausner 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>2003 – 2005: several pavement locations, 10 slums and 8 squatter settlements with varying degrees of tenure security in Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh, </li></ul><ul><li>Hyderabad in India, and in Nairobi in Kenya </li></ul>
  6. 6. Simplistic Assumptions… <ul><li>Urban Poverty </li></ul><ul><li>urban poor households having tenurial security, willing and able to invest in toilet facilities </li></ul><ul><li>the health benefits of quick-fix, low-cost facilities which will eventually network to public services </li></ul><ul><li>What makes for sanitation </li></ul><ul><li>basic sanitation needs universal; also needs for comfort, privacy, convenience, dignity; religious practices, media, what is seen and heard…what is practiced as sanitation </li></ul>
  7. 7. Sanitation and the Urban Poor <ul><li>Spatial and gendered complexities - key constructs </li></ul><ul><li>Sanitation a deeply social construct </li></ul><ul><li>The outcomes of homogenising the urban poor and sanitation as defecation and hand washing - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>practical indignities for women and men </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Structural indignities for women </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Spatial distinctions of urban poverty-sanitation <ul><li>Urban poor: where one lived central for access to basic services (Beall et al. 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>The Homeless Urban Poor: ‘threshold, limnial persons…at once no longer classified and not classified’ (McKean 2009) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>India / Bangladesh </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Heterogeneity of slums – the politics of urban watsan programmes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>India; Bangladesh/ Kenya </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Appropriate sanitation? The indignity of the low-cost ‘toilet-box’
  10. 10. The practical indignities <ul><li>60 year-old Gul Bano in Beguntila slum in Dhaka city pays to use the communal toilet which,’… during the monsoon is a slush of water and faeces. It is so dirty that I lose my appetite. If only one could breathe calmly and not have to hold one’s breath while defecating…’ </li></ul><ul><li>In the same slum, a male beggar Kuddoz, says it’s impossible to go there to defecate; if he does, he ends up all soiled around his feet: his problem: he cannot see. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>‘… filthy, dark, smelly and blocked as well as broken, so that they [girls] had to stand in awkward positions… photographs of these toilets showed the ground littered with excrement, soiled sanitary pads and used toilet paper’ (Abrahams et al. 2006). </li></ul><ul><li>‘… both women and men in the project area preferred urinating and defecating in the open, as opposed to using the dark, close confines of a latrine’ which given the need for water to clean – was often dirty (O’Reilly 2010). </li></ul>
  12. 12. Why low-cost, poor performing toilets for the poor? <ul><li>Far from being temporary structures, basic sanitation risks becoming permanent for poor communities as infrastructure gets cemented at the lowest levels (Bond 2002). </li></ul><ul><li>no-one installs a toilet as a health aid; what matters is comfort, convenience, privacy, safety and even social status </li></ul><ul><li>Why then the baggage of prejudice for the poor - imagining they don’t want the promoted [foul-smelling, often clogging, breaking-down] ‘toilet-boxes’ because they are unaware of its significant health impacts. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Does sanitation stop at defecation?
  14. 14. Basic sanitation needs… <ul><li>Young girls in Beguntila : ‘ We bathe in the dirty pond, with our clothes on. Then we go home, change our clothes and then come back to wash the ‘changed’ clothes. This is so difficult when we are bleeding (menstruating). We also need to wash the rags we use during this period, but there is no space [private enough] to wash or dry them .’ </li></ul><ul><li>Nasiruddin, a rickshaw puller living on the streets in Dhaka: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ We can bathe anywhere, wherever we find water. This is not so for women. When I marry, my wife will not live on the pavement and be exposed to everybody.’ </li></ul>
  15. 15. Dirt and disgust <ul><li>Curtis and Brian (2001): a failed health approach in promoting hygiene needs to imbibe universal feelings of ‘disgust’ - discussions apolitically limited to feces. </li></ul><ul><li>What mattered the most in being poor: looking poor ‘being/looking dirty, unclean, polluted – the ‘other’ </li></ul><ul><li>age, disability and profession </li></ul>
  16. 16. Looking clean…not compromised
  17. 17. Gendered and cultural demands on staying ‘clean’ <ul><li>Women responsible for keeping the home, children clean – washing clothes, utensils </li></ul><ul><li>Bathing after defecation, before prayers, sexual intercourse, menstruation, child birth…women’s roles in providing water at home for these tasks </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Give us water and we will teach you what is sanitation’ </li></ul>
  18. 19. Sanitation for….? <ul><li>Child-friendly toilets / toilets-blocks for women… </li></ul><ul><li>Frills? ‘access is access…to any form of safe faeces removal’ </li></ul><ul><li>A solar panel installed on the community toilet block, with bathing sites, resulted in a noticeable increase in the number of elderly users. </li></ul>
  19. 20. The mismatch <ul><li>Sanitation as defecation facilities [toilets for unisex able adults] + hand washing – health and efficiency gains </li></ul><ul><li>70 year-old Margaret Wangui (Maili Saba slums in Kenya): common sense yardstick in delivering sanitation: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Clean toilets; not having to lift raw sewage and dump it into the Mwengenye River [which we also use for bathing and cleaning]; bathing spaces with warm water for us [elderly] and the young children; water to clean clothes and homes; roads [outside her home] that are not always filled with [human and animal] wastes; roads, homes and toilets that don’t flood with sewage in the rainy months – that is what I think is appropriate’ </li></ul>
  20. 21. Conclusion <ul><li>‘… the question that emerges is not, How can we best sell this product [excreta-disposal]?’ but rather, ‘how can we address the structural inequalities [inherent in] sanitation provision ?’ (Penner 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>Till then ‘some sanitation for all’ and the statistics measuring these become ‘no more than the nonsensical rhetoric of aid and urban poverty’ (Satterthwaite 2003). </li></ul>