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The quest to create conditions that make the environment safer so women and girls can answer the call of nature without fear.

It is estimated that over a million women and girls live in the slums of Nairobi. Among the challenges they survive every day is that of lack of unfettered access to basic sanitation - and in particular toilet facilities, especially after dark, on account of the fear of physical molestation whenever they venture out. This is understandably a source of emotional, psychological and often times physical trauma as they find ways of coping with this reality.

Photo of Ezra Mbogori
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Provide a short description of your idea

The basic idea here is to define and implement a practical system through which women in one slum area can secure their access to toilet facilities after dark, through the use of community support networks and their existing organising skills. The project will emphasise common sense approaches such as setting 'group times' to head to the sanitation facilities (toilets and bathrooms); using designated routes and carrying gadgets such as alarm whistles for signalling danger in the event of a problem. Well known and trusted community members (men and older boys) will be asked to provide a monitoring service along the designated routes and these routes will also be made known to the security personnel of the area. Lighting of the routes will also serve to make them safer.

Get a user's perspective on your idea.

Women and girls of all ages who may have to walk long distances in the dark just to use toilets are often at risk of harassment, sexual assault and rape. This can result in unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, being accused of being unfaithful by husbands, being disowned by families, or mocked by other community members; and mental health challenges such as increased fear, stress and trauma. any approaches that significantly reduce or even eliminate the risks involved would understandably be welcome.

Show us what implementation might look like.

1. We will organize focus group discussions with the women in Mukuru slums so that they can identify the worst black-spots within the slums. 2. based on information from the focus group discussions, a pilot area will be determined and the leadership identified to refine the proposed project design 3. Information on the steps to be taken in implementing the project idea will be circulated through existing institutions - schools, churches and other social gatherings. 4. Authorities will be informed regarding the plans and asked to give their approval to the plans. Their collaboration through using their security apparatus will also be sought at this stage 5. Flyers will be distributed to all homes in a 80 meter radius to sensitize them of the project 6. The safety corridors will be identified and then physically cleaned and all the neighbours informed of their role in protecting all the ladies going to the 'havens of safety and dignity'. 7. A testing period will be agreed upon and the idea will be tested exhaustively.
GIS Maps and satellite images will be used to apportion the Mukuru slum in Nairobi into 12 zones. In each of these zones, a well-known and respected women leader ( recognised Matriarch) will be identified and asked to serve as a zone leader.
Each of the 12 zone leaders will have 6 section leaders on the basis of proximity to toilets and routes normally used by after dark. Each of the section leaders will work with 4 team leaders to ensure that the entire slum is covered.
These 288 women will form the backbone of the operation and will be crucial for the;
  • Identification of all toilets,
  • Mapping out the routes most commonly used by women after dark,
  • Identifying all security black-spots,
  • Developing a vigilance and communications system and suitable alarms
  • Renovation of toilets and recasting them as “locations of dignity and safety"
  • Leading Focus Group Discussions on dignity, safety, security and sanitation
  • Foster intergenerational cohesion among women in slums
  • draw younger men into the protection role - where their sisters, mothers and daughters are concerned

Anticipating clarifying questions that may be prompted by the suggested approaches
1. Does the idea address a specific need for women and girls?

A commemoration of the international day of social justice in February this year, two women from the Mukuru slum were invited to talk about the greatest need they saw in their current environment. They both spoke of the sanitation need – and graphically illustrated how demeaning it is for them to have to choose between ‘damaging their bodies’ by ignoring the call of nature, or risk rape or other forms of violence on account of venturing to the toilet in the dark. There is no doubt about the level of need here. Perhaps it should be noted that most gender based violence often happens in or around toilets and the indignity, shame and trauma of reliving the experience during reporting makes it unattractive for most victims, leaving them little choice but to suffer in silence.
2. Does the idea make life safer for women and girls?
The reality is that the risk of gender based violence (GBV) can impact significantly on the access of women and girls to sanitation and hygiene. In both urban and rural contexts, girls and women regularly face harassment when going to the toilet.  They often often change their drinking and eating habits in order to wait until nightfall to relieve themselves. Given the taboos around defecation and menstruation and the frequent lack of privacy, women and girls, often prefer to go to the toilet or use bathing units under the cover of darkness. This project will engender unity borne of collective action, collaboration and intergenerational cohesion within the community.
3. Does the idea make the urban context more empowering for users?
Women in informal settlements do not trust the police and the administration. The safety, security and attendant dignity that the project will bring around the use of toilets will foster cohesion among the women and girls, which in turn could very likely translate to changing the attitudes of their menfolk.
4. Does the idea lead to urban solutions specific to the urban context?
In the short term in is anticipated that the project will trigger community wide behaviour change, enhance the confidence of women and ultimately, the project will instill a greater sense of dignity and an awareness of rights and responsibilities in the community. The project design is informed by the fact that sanitation is a basic right under the new constitution. During the piloting phase, a reporting mechanism will be established through which local authorities (Area Chief, local Police post and resident community leaders will be regularly appraised as the women demand the cleaning, repairing, painting and lighting of the toilets, which over time will become established locations of safety and dignity.
5. Can the idea be replicated/scaled in other locations?
Over 60% of Nairobi’s residents live without access to water and basic sanitation facilities. This project will pioneer a paradigm shift around access and the use of toilets for girls and women in these settlements. The fundamental principals can easily be adapted, replicated and scaled up in other slums areas.  
6. Does the idea have the potential to impact the lives of low-income women and girls living in urban areas?
This project requires very little technology. It however will require that the project users make a break with ethnic, political, religious and generational barriers that have kept them from uniting towards the fundamental right to sanitation and basic services. The project will require women across the generational divide to work together, design the finer details of the implementation together and actually work together to ensure safety and security for all.
7. Does this idea describe a set of next steps to be accomplished and a timeline to accomplish them? 
The Project is ready for immediate implementation because all girls and women have to go to the toilet at least once every day. Every zone and section within Mukuru will have to identify the specific toilets, routes, safety corridors and timing of the implementation. Each zone will be encouraged to identify issues to do with accessibility to the toilets, quality of the toilet facilities, quantity of the toilets within a given zone or section and designing the project in a way that guarantees the long term sustainability of the initiative. 
 8. How easy will it be to pilot this idea in the next 12 to 18 months?   
The project deals with fundamental rights of girls and women living in severely marginalized conditions. It is anticipated that the pilot will certainly succeed.   
Once the project is launched, it is anticipated that it will take a life of its own as specific zones and sections refine the implementation to suit their specific needs. attached is a suggested pilot test implementation program which gives some idea of the steps to be taken.
8. Does this idea bring a new and fresh approach to the city or region in which it is set?  
Unfortunately, the only projects that deal with sanitation within the slums focus more on construction of toilets facilities that CHARGE fees for use. Thousands of women would rather buy food than pay for use of a toilet. This project will unite women across the generational, political, ethnic, creed and religious divide to work together for a cause that will bring security, liberty and dignity to all women.  
9. How scalable is this across regions and cultures?  
Once the community adopts the fundamental principles of unity, it is envisaged that the project will be quickly adopted across other slums and informal settlements, which will adapt and refine it to suit their specific needs and challenges. 
10. Overall, how do you feel about this concept
Excitement is an understatement. The fulfillment that comes with providing an idea and basic tools that will protect girls and women in informal settlements is exhilarating. The social cohesion, inclusion of boys and men will lead to a collaborative community which, in turn has the potential to increase the dignity, safety, security and liberty of all women in slums and informal settlements everywhere. 


Explain your idea in one sentence.

In simple terms the idea is to create a system and procedures that help women to meet a natural need - the use of bathroom/toilet facilities - and by seeking the active participation of the larger community, demonstrate ways of increasing security using local capabilities. The project will also generate an appreciation of existing needs that have received limited attention in the past. It can also be expected to build cohesion within the community.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

Women living in slums are exposed to rape and assault as they go to the toilet after dark. Violence against women is widespread and goes largely unpunished due to ineffective policing in slums. Uniting women to visit the toilet together will create a safe window within a time range where a secure corridor is provided for all to use. After the devastation and scale of the 2007-2008 post-election violence that took place in Kenya, women across the slums suffered disproportionately from physical, emotional and other forms of gender based violence. It is on record that 5,000 women living in slums took part in the Women’s Peace Platoon, a household level peace initiative that organized women to dissuade their men from taking part in any form of violence. The leaders of this project will be selected from this group.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

In the first instance the immediate beneficiaries once the project is operational, will be the women and girls who are directly affected by the project. They will constitute the core group that will advise on project design and the finer implementation steps. Through them, we expect to reach out to members of their families – especially young men in the community who will be drawn in and asked to play a role in providing protection to their womenfolk along the designated routes that are selected. Over time it is realistic to anticipate a range of benefits - improved health and happier residents for the larger community, from this project.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

We will be working very closely with Muungano wa Wanavijiji - an association of slum dwellers through their grass-roots savings organization known as Akiba Mashinani Trust. This project will greatly boost a current initiative that has been launched with the intention of collecting signatures in support of a class action suit on access to sanitation as a basic right. Up to the present time over 15,000 signatures have been secured from women living in slums. the project will therefore demonstrate that residents of this area are taking action to improve their surroundings in the ways they are best able to do.

Where should this idea be implemented?

It is proposed that the project start with Mukuru slum in Nairobi and as the idea takes root, it spread it to other similar settlements across the city and indeed to other urban settlements.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

We will demarcate a five-acre area where up to 1108 women live and will be directly impacted by this project for the pilot phase. We will test out the intended approaches in close liaison with the leaders within this area and build refinements prior to the roll out of the larger project across all 12 zones of the project area. (the numbers quoted here are arrived at by taking 63% - the proportion of women - out of of the total number of households per acre, which is the population density in Mukuru).

What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?

There will be significant orientation and/or direct training of community members in addition to active debate on the best ways to implement this idea (since we intend to have the community 'co-design' the finer aspects of this initiative) - but the real test will be in assessing its efficacy every evening - and gradually demonstrating to women and girls that this approach does enhance their security and accord them their rights in respect of sanitation, improved health and freedom of movement. This said, a day in the life of a community member will often consist of their usual participation in a range of normal livelihood activities, after which they will be invited to play a role in project actions ether as a participant (women and girls) or providing a services (boys and young men ) such as security along the designated route (for family members and the rest of the community).

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Does this idea have the potential to impact the lives of low-income women and girls living in urban areas?

Yes, the idea clearly targets low-income women and girls living in urban areas. - 100%

The idea targets women and girls but isn’t necessarily focused on those living in low-income urban areas. - 0%

The idea targets people living in low-income urban areas but doesn’t seem to benefit women and girls specifically. - 0%

2. Does this idea describe a set of next steps and a timeline to accomplish them?

The idea clearly outlines next steps, the resources and team needed to execute them and a timeline to accomplish this. - 50%

The idea gives a broad explanation of what it hopes to accomplish but there is no clear timeline or activities to reach its desired goal. - 50%

The idea has not clearly articulated what the next steps are. - 0%

3. How feasible would it be to implement a pilot of this idea in the next 12-18 months?

Very feasible – the next steps described in the contribution seem achievable in this time period. - 50%

A pilot appears feasible but more work needs to be done to figure out how it would be executed. - 50%

The idea is not ready to be piloted yet – the concept needs several more months of user feedback and prototyping to be ready for a pilot. - 0%

4. Does this idea bring a new and fresh approach to the city or region in which it’s set?

Yes, this idea appears to be new and innovative! I’m not aware of other ideas in this city or region that address this need using a similar approach. - 100%

There are other initiatives doing similar work in this area – but this idea targets a new group or has an updated approach. - 0%

I can think of many initiatives addressing the same need using a similar approach in the same region. - 0%

5. How scalable is this idea across regions and cultures?

This is an idea that could help women and girls in many different cities. I can see it being implemented across multiple regions and cultures. - 100%

Maybe but I’d imagine it would need very significant changes. - 0%

The idea is really only suited for one specific region / population. - 0%

6. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

I love this idea! - 100%

I liked it but preferred others. - 0%

It didn't get me so excited. - 0%

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Team (3)

Ariam's profile
Ariam Mogos

Role added on team:

"your comment woke us up to the fact improving security by collaborating with those whose responsibility this is can help get to the ultimate project objectives"

Ezra's profile
Lisa's profile
Lisa di Liberto

Role added on team:

"This is very useful and indeed perfectly complementary to what we are trying to do. We are trying to see how best to ensure we draw fro these insights"


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Photo of Meena Kadri

Here's a friendly tip: update your OpenIDEO profile so folks can see who they're collaborating with here. Think skills, experience, passions & more!

Photo of Ezra Mbogori

thanks for the tip Meena - will certainly try to do this

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