The Potty Project

Researching sanitation in low-income urban India.


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Key Takeaway 13 is “toilet facilities are gender and age specific but not gender and age sensitive.” There are many gender and age-related considerations which toilet designs fail to make. For example, for women, menstrual waste is a bigger shame than feces. Even though the toilet facilities are free for use by women, they contribute money once a week to pay the cleaner for cleaning all their sanitary waste . And even though Saraswati Ben, a resident of Mirzapur, has built her own toilet, she uses the public toilet to dispose her own sanitary waste and pays the caretaker a random sum of Rs.5-10 per month along with other women.

Toilets that segregate entrance based on gender/ age also fail to address other more pertinent sensitivity issues that users’ might face. For example, adolescent girls stop using children toilets much earlier than the boys their age. Also, pregnant women and older people have to wait in the same lines and climb slippery stairs to get to the toilet booths.

There is also a “dead-zone” in which children are too young (that is, physically small) to use community sanitation facilities and are too old to continue with sanitation behavior considered acceptable for kids. Kids below the age of 3-4 years old end up defecating at open spots near their house, either in open drains or in the open space near the community toilet. However, kids that are 5-6 years old typically still haven’t grown large enough physically to use the community’s sanitation facilities properly, though they’re usually considered too old to continue defecating in open areas within the community.

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