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World Toilet Day: a toilet for every RISE informal settlement household in Suva, Fiji

19 November 2020
By Dr Michaela Prescott, Research Fellow, Monash University Informal Cities Lab

RISE’s interventions in informal settlements aim to reduce community exposure to contamination as a result of poor sanitation management. Making sure all households have access to a toilet, and connecting all toilets to a wastewater treatment system, is key to ensuring safe and healthy living environments for all.

Existing wastewater management in communities is largely managed by individual households. Typically toilet facilities range from pit toilets to flush or pour flush toilets. The sewage from these is discharged into covered pits or ad-hoc tanks made from 44 gallon drums, car tyres, or repurposed white-goods. Wastewater from laundry and kitchen areas is typically discharged into open unlined drains. Without containment and treatment this wastewater contributes to environmental contamination, and has a range of associated health and well-being impacts for communities.

Over the past three years, the RISE program has been undertaking participatory design activities with communities to co-design approaches for improving sanitation management in settlements. These have included a series of community design workshops based on participatory design principles with Makassar and Suva informal settlement communities to co-design a water sensitive neighbourhood upgrade. The workshops include a range of activities across different stakeholder groups, including: focus group discussions with men, women and youth about existing neighbourhood characteristics; capacity-building around contamination pathways, and alternative water supply and wastewater treatment infrastructure; and co-design of infrastructure to improve the health of the community and the environment.

New toilets with attached water tanks under construction at RISE Fiji demonstration site, Tamavua-i-Wai.

To ensure that all households have access to a toilet, and all toilets are connected to a wastewater treatment system, RISE will implement a gradient of approaches within settlements. These include: providing support to build a private toilet facility where a household does not have one, renovating toilet facilities that are in poor condition, and connecting all toilets to a sealed septic tank and constructed wetland system that provide primary and secondary treatment before discharging effluent into the environment.

In late 2020 the Water for Women team will be collecting qualitative data about the gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) aspects of co-design activities supporting the implementation of the program. This will include one-on-one interviews or focus group discussions with diverse groups of men and women that take place face to face or over the phone. Ultimately, this data collection will contribute to a toolkit for gender equitable and socially inclusive co-design of WASH infrastructure, including sanitation, in informal urban settlements.