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Lighting the Way to Public Toilets

Accessing communal latrines and toilets is one of the major dangers for women in urban slums. This idea proposes illuminating the route to the communal bathrooms using photo-luminescent paint. [Summary by the Amplify Team]

Photo of Anya Ow
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Provide a short description of your idea

My idea is a 'smart' collaborative wayfinding project. It tackles the problem of unsafe access to sanitation areas within slums in India. It addresses the problem by organising the local community to create safe routes to sanitation areas using photoluminescent paint that glows at night to light the way. ***** Prakāśa aims to create a sense of collaboration and empowerment for disadvantaged Indian women living in slums. By making their journey to public toilets or open spaces at night brighter and communal, using photoluminescent paint that does not require the construction of infrastructure, the paths become safer and better policed.
Prakāśa is a follow on from our research video in Stage One (available to view here). The concept aims to create a sense of empowerment and collaboration among Indian women who live in low-income urban-rural slums, by making their journey to public bathrooms or open spaces at night safer. 

There is a high incidence of sexual assault in India, which often happens when an Indian woman is out trying to access public sanitation. Our research indicated that even Indian women living in very disadvantaged communities are willing to pay to access bathrooms which are lighted, because they feel safer going to those facilities. As such, we focused on light as a solution. Through further research and having consideration to the massive endeavour it would take to install infrastructure in the often highly congested and unplanned slums in India, we learned about non-infrastructure requiring light sources such as photoluminescent paint and the starpath coating.

We spoke to Lidi Brouwer of Studio Roosegaarde about our project to learn more about Studio Roosegaarde's Smart Highway project and about the brightest glowing paints, where paints can be applied, how often the paint must be maintained and so on. After our research we felt that photoluminescent paint would be a viable method to apply to the problem. 

Instead of having outside planners paint up the routes, we feel that public infrastructure officials and town planners need to work collaboratively with the local community, discussing with local women which routes are the best routes to light up, and taking in their input on where to paint and why, creating a sense of empowerment within the women as their voices are heard. Finally, the routes are to be painted by the local community themselves, men and women, to create a sense of awareness and collective ownership.

We feel that our idea might succeed because it does not require the installation of expensive infrastructure, and it will create lasting change because it not only empowers local women as a collaborative group but also creates a feeling of communal ownership and awareness in the local community. 

Interaction Examples:
  1. Pari lives and works in a slum in Mumbai. She saw a notice in the Times of India about a planning session for Prakāśa and decided to participate. She's since proceeded to help with the designs and painting in Stage 2 of the campaign and has been a more active and confident voice in her community since. At night, she used to band with her friends to go to an open space some distance away, and often faced harassment even in a group, but now with the lighted paths and better awareness she feels safer going about after dark.
  2. Anika lives in Bawana. Going to the public toilet after dark used to be a daily ordeal as her group would often be harassed for money or worse by men loitering along the way or at the dark facilities. With the communal ownership of the new Prakāśa path, and a greater voice given to her and the women in her community, the conversation started by the work done by WICI, Jagori and Action India has continued, and she is now safer going to the public facilities at night.

Check out our full PDF presentation for more info. We'll love to have some feedback on our idea. Thanks for reading!

Explain your idea in one sentence.

Prakāśa aims to create a sense of collaboration and empowerment for disadvantaged Indian women living in slums using photoluminescent paint, making their journey to public bathrooms or open spaces at night brighter and communal.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

95% of sexual assaults in India take place when women are on their way or at a location to answer a call of nature. We want to make their journey to public sanitation safer, and create a sense of empowerment among them.

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

Indian women in low-income slums will be the main group of people who will benefit from the idea, but the community will also benefit as a whole from the increased safety. Success can be monitored through feedback from the local communities.

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

A collaboration between public planners, local women's rights groups - which are very active and organised in India - and the Times of India, to get the word out.

Where should this idea be implemented?

Within low-income Indian slums.

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

The project could be undertaken in one slum area as a 'test' area first, with feedback gathered through all stages in the project from the local community to see if it does make the journey to public sanitation safer.

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

Women and girls will interact with the idea firstly at the planning stage, when discussing routes, then at the painting stage, and finally when implemented, every night when on their way to access public sanitation, as the routes become communal, brighter and safer.

Evaluation results

2 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. - 50%

Maybe but I’d imagine it would need very significant changes. - 50%

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! - 50%

I liked it but preferred others. - 50%

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


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ivanie Destila Sari

Hello from Indonesia!
I think it is a great idea, I appreciate it. I want to know, how long does it take from the very first process until we can see the result? Is there any force from the male because the program involve female? Thank your for your response :)

Photo of Anya Ow

Hello! This is a hypothetical, and unfortunately as we weren't selected for funding we won't be moving forward (we are only students!). :) Our estimated timeline was visualised above, but naturally it's just an estimate. Also, as we mentioned, the planning stage and the painting stage was to involve the community as a whole, while empowering women in the decision-making process. Thanks for your interest.

Photo of Ivanie Destila Sari

So this program is not implemented yet? Sorry this is my first time joining openideo :)

Photo of Anya Ow

Nope, we are students with no money :)

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