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Gender specific toilets and menstrual hygiene management saves lives

Women in the developing world, in both urban and rural areas risk their lives every day when using the restroom. It is something that we do EVERY day and take completely for granted. Women all over the world "hold it in" until it's dark and deserted outside so they can go use the restroom. If they are found, they are likely to be subjected to ridicule (at the best) and violence (or worse).

Photo of Ana Pena
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I remember feeling ashamed and embarrassed when I first got my period, and I had a private bathroom to go to and had been taught what to do. I can't imagine dealing with all of that stigma and having to look for a place in the dark to "take care of it". 

How can we reduce the number of times that women go out in the dark? Can we reduce the taboo? Can we empower them to take care of their menstruation needs in other ways? What about giving them a safe place to pee/poo? (a mass-distribution of adult diapers sounds like a good idea, but other than the financial sustainability of it is also taboo or hard for women to dispose of sanitary items as they fear being seen or being ridiculed/harassed if what they are disposing of is discovered)

There are many organizations in the sanitation sector working towards improving women's lives by giving them access to sanitary pads and education around menstruation for example:

How can we leverage or expand these existing programs to help improve the safety factor as well? 


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Hi Ana. I'm not sure I understand your solution, but am delighted you are thinking about these issues and referencing my organization ZanaAfrica. Disposable pads are most common in terms of what women want and what works best for their water-limited context. Also the pads you show in the photo often are not dried outside on the clothesline as they look too much like pads. As a result, women dry the pads inside and they often are not dried sufficiently. We have both a disposable solution as well as a resuable solution that meets girls and women's needs and desires. Happy to talk about it if you are interested. I do think more of us should work together to keep girls healthy and safe!

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