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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%

40 comments

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Photo of Ashwin Gopi
Team

Hi Anya, we're members of the Bindi project (https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/bindis-community-concierges-to-inform-connect-and-empower) and we want to implement your idea in Kathmandu, where safety and lighting is an issue. In your conversation with Lidi from Studio Roosegaarde, do you remember what kind of paint was used? We're trying to figure out the right substance, and would love some help in this.

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Hi Ashwin, the paint was created specially by Studio Roosegaarde and their architects (i.e. it is not commercially available), please contact them directly. https://www.studioroosegaarde.net/contact/ Good luck! 

Photo of Ashwin Gopi
Team

Thanks Anya!

Photo of Ivanie Destila Sari
Team

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
Team

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
Team

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

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Nope, we are students with no money :)

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Anya, this is a fantastic idea (and great to see some other Melbourne girls on Open IDEO!)

Caltech + Kohler recently collaborated on a sustainable toilet for the urban environment. They got local artisans to paint the outside of the unit with imagery that is culturally sensitive and illustrates why people should be sustainable and conserve water (see: http://www.designboom.com/design/caltech-kohler-self-sufficient-mobile-restroom-container-05-05-2014/). Perhaps you could also use imagery as a mural to not only signal a safe route, but communicate why safety and empowerment is an important issue.

Boa Mistura also recently rejuvenated a mexican neighborhood with otomi art - it is a great example of building a community by getting the community to collectively paint their neighbourhood (see: http://www.designboom.com/art/boamistura-la-colonia-de-las-americas-mexico-04-24-2014/ and http://www.proyectolasamericas.org ). This project collaborated and partnered with a couple of local cultural organisations as well as businesses who provided product (including a paint company and a crane company). Could you use similar partnerships to help prototype this in the field, particularly partnerships where you could help build a company's brand around this area in exchange for materials and help getting things started in particular communities?

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Hi Jes - yeah my team and I are all in Melbourne :) We're final year applied/graphic/communication design students at Billy Blue Melb - this is actually one of our semester projects ^^

We did consider partnering with local organisations (as per our full pdf presentation!): either organisations with the interest+money (like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation which ran the toilet design fair in India) or the interest+platform (like Times of India, which we settled on). It would be great to partner with local women's organisations like Jagori too, since we heard that the women's groups in India are highly active and organised...

As to materials, we'll try and make more enquiries about the paint in this stage. During our interview with Lidi of Studio Roosegaarde she mentioned that their Smart Highway paint is specially developed, so I suppose any partnership for materials might have to involve/consult them and Heijmans Infrastructure. Will see.

Thanks for the links! :) We did look at Boa Mistura when researching our idea. Such amazing work there.

Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Congratulations on the winning idea. Such an amazing concept. Can't wait to see how it grows (and glows) in the real world.

Photo of Karolle Rabarison
Team

Such a fresh approach and love how you guys have presented it (need some tips from you!). Excited to see what you do next!

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Anya,
Congratulations on making it to the 15 Shortlisted ideas. You have done an incredible job and we look forward to seeing this idea impact the lives of women and girls.

Great work!

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

awesome surprise! :D Thanks so much! It was a team effort with Simone and Meaghan all the way. ^^

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Women's Safety Challenge Refinement list! As you work to refine your idea in this next phase, consider the following questions: How might a local community get involved in a small-scale pilot of your idea? Have you identified any partners or local communities that that might be interested in testing out your idea? Tell us more about the technical specifications of this paint. And, how do you plan on prototyping it in the city? How do you imagine you will have to work with building owners and municipal governments to actually paint these safe routes? Are there any examples of similar products that have been utilised in the city? For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out http://ideo.pn/ws-refine-tips and catch our Tools for Refinement at http://openideo.com/content/tools-for-the-womens-safety-challenge-refinement-phase.

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Thanks so much! Will do :)

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

We've addressed the questions in the Make It Visual section. Thanks so much again for selecting us for the Refinement list!

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Anya,
Thanks for replying to our questions in such a clear manner.
Great work,

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Would be great if you can fill out the two additional sections in the submission form: Show Us What Implementation Might Look Like + Get a User's Perspective on Your Idea. We're sure you've got further insights to share for both sections, ahead of our Evaluation phase which starts in a couple of days.

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Hi Meena! I've answered those two additional sections - along with the OpenIDEO questions - in the Make it Visual section... hope that's okay :)

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Nice one, Anya. We'd still prefer it if you can fill out those two sections – even with something like "See the image gallery for more details" or "Check out our attached PDF", etc – so that all Evaluators can easily find the items which answer these questions.

Photo of Jamie McCormick
Team

Hi Anya,

I really like that your idea involves the community while making women feel safer. I look forward to learning more about your idea in the refinement phase of the Challenge!

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Thanks for your interest :) It was a team effort!

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi Anya,

Really interesting idea, and beautiful communications!

I'd love to know how you'd prove this idea at a very small scale. It seems like a great idea but I'd want to know it had some effect before scaling it, promoting it through newspapers, etc.

If you had $5,000 to test this, what would you do? And what would you do if it didn't work?

Keep up the great work!
Danny

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Great feedback Danny,
Anya, we look forward to learning your insights into this feedback,

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Thanks Danny :) We have answered your questions in the Make It Visual section.

Photo of Natasha Freidus
Team

I love this idea, very cool. I wonder if you could build on the strategy of having women involved in the design by including some type of public art/mural component? There are some great ideas on this challenge looking at the connection between creativity and safety and empowerment. Could be a lot of fun and beautiful as well!

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

We did originally consider a mural, but felt that the priority should be an efficient use of resources spread over a larger number of communities, hence a symbol-based wayfinding project. Local women do still design their symbols, so there is still a creative element to it. :) Thanks for your suggestion!

Photo of Natasha Freidus
Team

Got it--I'd love to hear more about how the women design the symbols, but perhaps that's in your PDF, so I'll check it out:)

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi. Very nice idea..can be clubbed with the larger agenda as suggested here:
http://openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/mending-spaces

Photo of Kavita Gonsalves
Team

This idea is perfect for throwing an artistic light on women's safety in India's slums. I am wondering if you narrowed down on an exact location to implement this project.
I feel this idea would work quiet well with the Street Art Program which is part of the pop-up school proposal in Kamathipura, Mumbai's red-light area. Think it would be awesome to collaborate -
http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/ignition-kranti-s-pop-up-school-for-social-change-in-mumbai-s-red-light-area

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Thanks for your suggestion! :) Our idea was really to have this hypothetical concept implemented over many areas, with an efficient use of resources to help as many people as possible, so we didn't narrow it down to just one area. As you would see from the full PDF, the scope of the problem is very large.

We did originally consider some sort of mural or street art project, but felt that a symbol-based wayfinding system would be easier to implement over the large distances required to be covered. :)

Photo of Kavita Gonsalves
Team

Well, yes, the area of the scope of your project is massive and one of the tasks is looking at community groups, NGOs, non-profits, schools to partner with to implement your project in all the areas that you mentioned.

I see two routes, like you do- a street art initiative and the bindi symbolism. A street art initiative has the potential to have a bigger narrative that the bindi designs, in terms of value, ownership and participation. The bindi designs can get 'lost'- amongst the many messages already on the wall, can be painted over, and may just be a symbol with little meaning to the audience. Moreover, it is representational of one religious community- How does it reach out to the 'others'?

Do check the "The Wall Project" for the Indian context, particularly, Mumbai...
http://www.thewallproject.com/
https://www.facebook.com/WALLProjectINDIA

Hope that helps. :)

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

very neat! great idea

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Thank you!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Awesome research and savvy thinking! We'd love it if you might consider helping people better grasp how this idea could play out by describing some example scenarios which illustrate user journeys through some of the proposed activities you've outlined. Check this example: http://www.openideo.com/open/e-waste/concepting/neighbourhood-e-waste-champion/ where a few simple scenarios were created in an attempt to explain the goodness on the idea. (You can update your post at any time by hitting the Update Entry button up there on the right.) Through doing this we'll be able appreciate your idea through the lens of people in low-income communities.

We also hope you'll join in on discussion on others people's ideas here at OpenIDEO. Your perspectives would certainly enrich our conversations and collaboration...

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

oh ok :) Will do.

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

That's a very innovative day to get around the lighting infrastructure issue!

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

Thank you!

Studio Roosegaarde is at the vanguard of this technology :3 ours is a (very?) lateral application of their Smart Highways project. Lidi of Studio Roosegaarde was really helpful when we talked to her.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Anya Ow
Team

wow thanks!