Girls Matter

Universal History Archive/UIG via Reuters

Universal History Archive/UIG via Reuters

It all started in the year 1909. 

The brave women of New York city sparked a campaign for change, a fight against oppression and inequality, a fight that’s lasted over a century. They’ve paved the way and are now joined by millions of women and allies around the world, fighting for the same thing – change. 

A lot has been done to elevate women’s rights since this first march. In 2018 alone, women in Saudi Arabia were finally granted the legal right to drive, voters in Ireland struck down a draconian ban on abortion, Iranian women watched the World Cup in a stadium alongside men for the first time in decades, and the #MeToo movement sparked a much-needed international conversation about harassment and sexual assault. Most recently, a Netflix documentary about Indian women fighting stigmas around menstruation, Period. End of Sentence, won the 2019 Oscar for Best Short Documentary. 

There is no doubt that progress has been made. It’s been slow but steady and significant.

Watch Charimaya Majhi, an inspiring woman and community leader from our project in Jholunge, speak on the importance of cleanliness for woman.

At Manavta, our mission is to create sustainable sanitation solutions for populations in need. In particular, today we highlight the girls in need. In Nepal, as many as 3 out of 10 girls report missing school because of their period, as access to safe and private latrine facilities are unfortunately few and far between. Skipping school once a month takes a huge toll on these children’s ability to intake and retain information, causing many girls in developing nations to eventually drop out. At Manavta, we’re changing that by continuing to raise awareness about the sanitation crisis, building toilets in high-need rural areas of Nepal, and educating along the way.

Malala Yousafzai said, “we cannot all succeed when half of us are held back”. This means that our collective success depends on equalizing the playing field.

 Ladies and allies, Happy International Women’s Day.
Keep fighting the good fight.
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It's World Toilet Day

Let me start by offering you all a Happy World Toilet Day! Happier, if you have access to a toilet… happiest if you’re reading this while sitting on your fully accessible toilet.

I’ll begin by paying my respects:

World Toilet Day is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. 

The toilet, dubbed by The Economist Magazine as the world’s most useful invention, has saved billions of people from death and disease. Despite this, 892 million people are still subject to open defecation and the diseases that come with it. I say subject to because open defecation is not a choice that populations in countries such as India, Nepal and Kenya can make. Millions of people are forcefully subjected to live a life of poor sanitation and hygiene, simply due to lack of resources. Thankfully, organizations such as UNICEF, the UN and WHO are tackling this crisis with initiatives such as WASH to ensure that everyone has access to a toilet by the year 2030. Achieving this goal is essential to eradicating poverty, thereby making this world a safer, cleaner and happier place to live. 

Enter Manavta…

For those we haven’t had the pleasure to meet, we’re Manavta, a non-profit organization that builds sanitation facilities at rural schools in Nepal. Our name, Manavta, means Humanity. Our journey began when we fell in love with Nepal and its people. We did our research and realized that more than half of the population doesn’t have access to a toilet. Even more disconcerting is that the lack of sanitation facilities in rural communities forces girls who start menstruating, to abandon educational opportunities, often leaving them trapped in a cycle of poverty. We’ve joined forces with fellow #ShitDisturbers and are looking to change the world, one toilet at a time. Through sustainable and innovative sanitation systems, we are not only looking to save the planet but humanity along with it. Our philosophy is to educate and empower the communities affected by this crisis so that together, we can help millions enjoy the same freedoms that we do.

For those of you enjoying this read on the toilet, remain seated a little while longer to spread this shit.

Road to Jholunge

Update from the Field

Namaste from Nepal! To say the least our first few months back, have been eye opening. We have spent some time connecting with local NGOs, district public officials and learning about the current WASH situation. While scoping out various districts, we connected with local NGO Educating Nepal and have had the opportunity to spend time in a small village located in the district of Sindhupalchowk, named Jholunge (jho-loon-ge).

Nestled in the valley of Maghi Gaon, the village is home to some of the best fishermen in Nepal. Through a somewhat treacherous road, the village can be reached within 5 hours by local bus. However, as the current border blockage with India continues to make headlines, traveling has been quite the task especially with a lack of fuel and transportation.

Starting this December, Manavta will be building urine diversion toilets for three families and working alongside the community, students of Suryoda Primary School and artists from Kathmandu, to spread the good word about stopping open defecation. As many of you may know, Sindhupalchowk is also the epicenter of the earthquake and has been the site of much of the destruction that was witnessed in the media. Jholunge in total lost 25 members of their community and are currently rebuilding their homes, schools and lives. Their story is something I will come to learn while I spend the next few months living with them. We are so grateful to be able to work with this community and are equally heartfelt by the support our fans have shown us during the past few years leading up to this project. 

We are set to depart next week and I encourage you to keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (links at the very bottom of the page) to learn more about the progress and the community we are working with. If you would like to get involved with our current operations you can connect with us on social media or at toilets@manavtaproject.org, we would love to hear from you!

This week's ThankBack is focused on the people who continue to help us spread the word about the global sanitation crisis and our approach to ending it!

 

OUR FUNDRAISING TEAM

A huge shout out to everyone who helped make our first annual #GiveAShit fundraiser in Calgary a success! Special props and thanks to Zarah Virani, Naznin Daya, Gurjot Bhullar,  Varshu Karumuri, Varnit Karumuri, Saima Kassam, Maggie Dawson, Sophia Jaffer, Adam Getchaw, Charlotte Loeppky, Shez Rajan, Malika Karim, Faizal Somji, Alyssa Hasham, Spyder and the whole team at Blind Monk Pub. We had an amazing turnout and raised just over $1200, all of which will go towards our next projects in Nepal (gearing up in two short months!). Thanks to everyone who came out, were looking forward to seeing you again. 

ADVISORY BOARD

From building our first toilets to our very first Facebook post, we have learned a great deal about the non profit industry over the past three years. We would like to acknowledge individuals and organizations who are helping Manavta reach new heights. From working on our Canadian charitable registration to connecting us to professionals around the world, we feel deeply grateful towards our advisors. Huge thanks to Sterling Lawrence from Lawrence Law, Justin Dharamdial from Osler Law and Hafiz Mitha of Vivametrica. 

Did you just say Pee Fertilizer?

A typical toilet flusher wastes up to 22 liters of drinkable water every day and three- to six-liter flushes at a time. What follows is a long and costly process of sanitizing the water that was clean before you answered nature’s call. Using so much water per flush unnecessarily increases the volume of our waste and the cost of its transportation and treatment –a process that leaves a huge carbon footprint.

 

Why Pee?

It’s the method of treating your pee and poo as two separate entities. Urine Diversion (UD) is a process that splits the two at the source, no longer leaving you with waste, but with two very valuable resources. Urine and feces are partitioned into two compartments. Urine will go through one compartment and feces will go through another. Both are then stored in separate holding tanks.   

Valuable plant nutrients are found in human excreta. A higher proportion of these nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium –reside in your urine compared to your feces. The exact breakdown of urine varies depending on the diet of the pee-maker. The more protein a person consumes, the more nitrogen will be excreted into the urine. Urine also contains salt – sometimes quite a lot of it if you are hopped up on a diet of canned soup and French fries.

 

Try it at home

To use urine as a fertilizer safely, it should be stored for 1 to 6 months in a sealed container. When urine is stored the pH value, which is usually 6 – 7, will increase to around 9 as urea decomposes into ammonia/ammonium. This process sanitizes the urine overtime killing off pathogens. The longer the urine is stored the more sanitized the urine will become, thus increasing the variability of crops that can be fertilized. For instance, urine that is stored for 6 months can be safely used on all types of crops for consumption.

 

Grossness factor

A disadvantage of maintaining a pit latrine is the cleanup process. Not only is discarding the waste laborious and messy, but quite smelly as well. UD would make this step much easier by keeping the feces dry. The foul smelling fecal sludge that we all associate “shit” as is the result of feces and urine mixing. The more time dedicated to “drying out” the feces will ultimately transform the substance into an easily handled ashy and odourless type of material. The dried feces can be used for composting but must be stored much longer than urine in order to efficiently kill off the large variety of pathogens that live within feces.

 If designed and operated properly a UD toilet can be built indoors, improving the users security and enhance privacy. This can be an essential feature for women and girls who may not utilize the toilet at night for safety reasons. In addition, building the UD system indoors allows it to be paired or in close proximity to a hand washing station. This is important as it could increase hand-washing rates, which would alternatively improve hygiene.

 

Its got potential

At Manavta, we are currently working on putting together a pilot project that will showcase our UD toilet designs and provide us further research on its uses and disadvantages. Since WASH in schools is about engaging the greater community, we see these toilets as a tool to please nearby farmers (like our friend Krishna) who spend far too much money on commercial fertilizers, help conserve water in the long run and end open defecation. If you want to learn more refer to our concept design or check out this WaterAid report on UD in Nepal. 

                   Krishna at his farm in Lauke, Nepal - the site of our Pilot Project in March 2013 

                   Krishna at his farm in Lauke, Nepal - the site of our Pilot Project in March 2013