Cultural and Social Considerations

An important aspect of the solution space is consideration of the socioeconomic context, and special consideration of cultural practices, around how human waste is managed and treated, as well as defecation habits of the local community. The following sections include information about toilet types and treatment technology. It is important to appreciate that technology is only part of the solution; especially when the focus is on toilet technology. Depending on where you live, the solutions employed could literally be a matter of life and death. This is particularly relevant to the health and well-being of women and girls. As mentioned previously in this document, girls are often disproportionately impacted by the global sanitation crisis, because of the high drop-out rates for girls attending schools once they hit puberty and begin menstruating. A school without a toilet is a school without very many girls. This is clearly a huge social problem, as well as one of great inequity, and should be considered in how solutions are employed. In addition, there are places in which going to a community toilet can mean risking sexual assault for women. The addition of a beautifully engineered toilet, that provides clean water or fuel to a community, will go unused by the female population if it is not safe for women and girls to actually use it. These are examples of context, and the importance of considering cultural situations, safety issues, gender equity, accessibility, tradition, social structure, and so much more. There is an important role for behavior science to help understand and address the socioeconomic conditions of a particular place. There are groups that focus entirely on these challenges, and are important to include as collaborations in the solution development process. A recent Solution Search contest that is focused on behavior change around ocean pollution is a great place to start for inspiration and ideas.