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Chatter Boxes

A village in India features a successful toilet block design which allows womens' conversations to flow freely.

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It took a scuffle with villagers for a rural development officer to understand why community toilets were not succeeding in rural Vidarbha. Women in villages, explained local resident Sangita Gore, go out for defecation in groups – partly for safety from wild animals and partly because it offers the busy women a chance to socialise with distant neighbours... [In regular toilet blocks] “we feel stifled and scared,” said Gore. “We’d rather be in the fresh air and in touch.”

The new toilets were built in a semicircle instead of in a row. They had no doors because women do not use them. The walls between cubicles were raised only halfway so that women could see and talk to each other. Full article on Down to Earth:

What additional social factors need to be considered when it comes to the design of sanitation facilities?


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Providing people with a sense of safety seems vital in this. Open use public toilets need full-time on site maintenance/security staff to function well and discourage predatory and abusive behavior that often accompanies public toilets in populations affected by war, hunger and economic upheaval. Separating genders and having children go with the women is one traditional way of mitigating the dangers, but is not sufficient.
Current public toilets are often filthy and could easily be injurious or even deadly for a small child through injury or illness.
A woman probably will not bring their children to a place that is not safe, even to drop off or empty a waste bucket.Unless she has someone to care for the children while she is gone, she has no time to deliver her family's waste.

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