ThankBack Thursday

ThankBack Thursday

One of the most important aspects of leadership is gratitude. Gratitude is so often forgotten or brushed over these days. That is why we're starting a new tradition - Thank You Thursdays. It's our chance to give a small shout-out to the people who have and continue to help us grow. Here are this week's shout outs:..

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 


Education For All

Aside from the fact that education is a fundamental human right, the benefits of educating girls are indisputable, with many arguing that it is the single most important way to address global poverty and promote economic development. In India if just one percent more girls attended secondary school, their GDP would increase by $5.5 billion.

Educated girls are healthier, marry later, and have fewer children. An extra year of school for girls can:

  1.  Reduce infant mortality by 5-10%

  2. Increase a girl’s future earnings by 10-20% for primary school or 15-25% for  secondary school.


Why is it that 42% of girls in the developing world are not enrolled in school?

For many menstruation results in absences, which then leads to them falling behind in school. In Nepal as many as 3 out of 10 girls report missing school because of their period. In India, almost a quarter of girls drop out of school entirely after starting their periods.

Girls in many parts of the developing world face a combination of menstruation related barriers that vary depending on the local culture and environment. Myths, taboos, and a general lack of education regarding menstruation often create an unsupportive environment.

In some parts of western Nepal the practice of chaupadi, or the separation of women during menstruation, is still common - though it is gradually changing. Chaupadi originated from Hinduism and is based on the belief that menstruating women are impure or polluting, so they cannot go in the house or eat with their family during that time. 

Many girls face a lack of access to adequate hygienic products (and often have to use unsanitary materials such as old rags, leaves, or ash), as well as pain management methods to help them deal menstrual cramps. To top it off, many schools do not provide girls with access to safe, private, and clean toilet or latrine facilities.

Thus, to keep girls in school the incorporation of WASH programming that includes Menstrual Hygiene Management is crucial.

Changing cultural norms and dispelling harmful myths takes time and education, but ensuring that girls have access to adequate toilet facilities at school provides them with the environment they need to be comfortable, confident, and successful.

Combining toilets with menstrual hygiene education (for girls AND boys), as well as access to appropriate sanitary products is a huge step in the right direction towards educating girls and promoting gender equality, which in turn benefits the health of their family and community and boosts the economy.


Menstrual Hygiene Day

Our vision at Manavta is to create a world in which every girl and woman can manage her menstruation in privacy, safety and with dignity. Menstrual Hygiene Day will help to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential. To learn more visit and check out our Resources to learn about our MHM initiatives. 

Are Toilets a Human Right?

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 64/292, which “Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”.

Does that make toilets a human right?  

The concept of a right to sanitation is concerned with its necessity in order to realize the other human rights, like those included in this list (e.g. health, nutrition, dignity and an adequate standard of living). The UN High Commissioner for Refugees emphasizes that adequate sanitation is necessary for maintaining access to clean water, which is critical to the rights to quality of life and health.

Making sanitation a human right requires that it apply universally (i.e. to everyone without discrimination). This equality is especially important for women, as menstruating women are stigmatised in many cultural practices.

For instance, the rural Nepali practice of chaupadi requires that "impure" menstruating women remove themselves from contact with other people. They are often forced to stay in sheds outside the house, or in other unclean environments, which often expose women to the elements. If sanitation is formally acknowledged as a human right, it would supersede cultural norms that guarantee the equal humanity of all people – a right applies to everyone, always, even when they’re menstruating.

In fact, the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Council also recently reaffirmed the human right to drinking water and sanitation with a specific focus on menstruation. It notes that women and girls’ inequality can be worsened by inadequate menstrual hygiene.

This Human Rights Council resolution and its 2010 resolution, which was adopted shortly after the General Assembly’s resolution mentioned above, indicate that States have the primary responsibility for ensuring realisation of these rights. Nepal’s interim constitution is fairly progressive in recognising the right to sanitation. Article 16 on the Right Regarding Environment and Health includes the statement that “Every person shall have the right to live in clean environment,” which includes sanitation and hygiene.  

Of course, moving from recognising to implementing a right isn’t the easiest step. It's worth noting that being a right does not obligate States to provide toilets. Infrastructure is critical to realising adequate sanitation (and large scale infrastructure requires State or major communal action), but the right doesn’t actually require toilets for all. Recognition of sanitation as a right focuses on the need for environmental hygiene to achieve health and an adequate standard of living.

Rather than mandating toilets, the right to sanitation obligates States in ensuring that there is an environment conducive to realising sanitation services that are available, acceptable, accessible, affordable and of sufficient quality, as noted by Catarina de Albuquerque, the previous Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. That doesn’t require a flush toilet in all circumstances but may require hardware or infrastructure of some type, although de Albuquerque also makes clear that individuals are expected to contribute to realising this right. States are obligated to enable this right only if limiting factors (like poverty) prevent people from achieving this standard on their own. Just as a side note – Manavta’s toilets aren’t your conventional flush toilets anyway!

So if toilets aren’t a right, what does a rights-based perspective bring to the issue?

It’s a call to action. It provides a legal framework that allows people to demand change, especially marginalized groups – rights are for everyone, not just the privileged. In Nepal, marginalized individuals include women and rural communities, populations that have been a focus of Manavta’s work.

Some groups in Nepal have started demanding, and achieving sanitation services and have used the language and obligation of human rights to do so. While States aren’t obligated to provide toilets, the language of rights allows prioritisation of sanitation services like water and wastewater connections. There is still significant progress to be made, and plenty of community-level work to be done. The right to sanitation is far from being realised in Nepal, which is why Manavta and other like-minded organisations continue to use toilets to lay the groundwork for health, dignity and an adequate standard of living.


ThankBack Thursday

ThankBack Thursday

Carolina Hum

This week we're feeling especially thankful for Carolina Hum, the grooviest musical duo formerly based out of Ottawa, now out of Toronto. These two brought their most beautiful and haunting harmonies to our fundraiser at Chapters Rideau last March, bringing with them a small army of fans. Thanks Alie and Laura for the support and great tunes - we can't wait to work with you again soon.

If you're in Toronto this Saturday, come out and see these two along with The Fox and the Moon and The Maladies of Adam Stokes play at The Cameron House with doors opening at 8:30pm.