I’m excited to say that I’ve awarded a grant from the Parkes Foundation to explore whether composting toilets meet the needs of menstruating women and girls in Malawi.
Composting toilets are designed to safely collect and convert faeces and urine into compost, and are widely promoted across Africa as a sustainable strategy to improve sanitation and produce low-cost fertiliser. However, it’s not clear whether these facilities are able to satisfactorily meet the physical, mental and cultural needs of menstruating women and girls. Certain requirements of composting toilets, e.g. preventing water or rubbish from entering the toilet vault, conflict with need to wash bodies and hands in privacy, clean blood stains on the toilet, and dispose of used menstrual rags with discretion. To explore these issues, I’ll use in-depth qualitative interviews with women and girls who are long-term users of composting toilets to discuss their behaviours, experiences, beliefs and opinions. These will be compared and contrasted with traditional toilet (pit latrine) users, and developed into suggestions for improving the suitability and comfort of composting toilets for menstruating women and girls.
Please get in touch if your work has explored similar themes or issues – it would be great to share ideas.