The role of women and sanitation: a case study of Northern Kenya
Thuita, Catherine Wambui
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Safe sanitation and hygiene is needed to realize the Millennium Development Goals targeting gains against diarrhoeal diseases, improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. As a result women are an important target for improving sanitation and hygiene because of their roles as household managers, in child rearing and environmental care. New approaches to tackling a lack of sanitation have been informed by community level approaches, but this has not increased women participation because social determinants, such as unequal gender, and power relations, pose barriers to their involvement. This research sought to investigate the perceptions, beliefs and practices of Somali women with regard to sanitation and the barriers they experienced in their efforts to address their needs. The study used a feminist approach that was informed by narrative methodologies that aimed to create spaces for Somali women’s voices. Findings revealed that women need privacy, safety, convenience in sanitation, and support for managing Female Genital Mutilation and child birth processes. They however experienced barriers that were related to the structures of the society which were gendered and gave men power control of decisions. The study revealed that current sanitation approaches should take into consideration what women say about their social environment, including ways in which they may be able to participate.