Guest post by Ruth Kaveke, Janet Leparteleg, Charity Wanjiku, Chao Mbogo and Topy Muga, 2017 fellows of Kenya
Editor’s note: The 2017 fellows of Kenya were one of five country cohorts to receive a $3,000 seed grant to support the implementation of their action plan that was developed during the 2017 TechWomen program. In addition to mentorship and cultural activities, TechWomen participants collaboratively work to develop an action plan to address a socioeconomic issue in their community alongside Impact Coaches.
“We will plunge you into the world of toilets – enraging, yet very engaging.” These were the words we used to introduce Project Digniti at Pitch Day during the 2017 TechWomen program. It was the start of a journey by Team Kenya to potentially change the lives of hundreds of primary school children. Sanitation-related illnesses are among the greatest killers of children across the world, and in Kenya, several schools in rural areas have been shut down for lack of toilet facilities. Globally, 4.5 billion people have little or no access to proper toilets, creating negative social and economic impact on communities.
Project Digniti partners with existing sanitation providers to build new toilets, implement a sanitation curriculum, and design and implement an accountability model in rural schools that recognizes and rewards those that uphold high sanitation standards.
We selected Nengerpus Primary School in the marginalized county of Samburu, 350 kilometres from Nairobi, as the pilot site for Project Digniti. In June, we took an exciting road trip to Samburu to meet the school’s Principal and the Chair of Board to discuss our project implementation plan. Amid wildlife on a hot, sunny day, we had a fruitful meeting, which included identification of local partners who could help us implement the project.
Nengerpus Primary School has 123 pupils and only one toilet for its girls; our budget allows for the construction of two additional girls’ toilets. We are utilizing local builders to carry out the excavation and construction of the toilets.
Excavation and building of the toilets will take approximately one month. Afterward, we will begin training the staff and students using the sanitation curriculum. We plan to launch and commission the toilets during a colorful event in August that will coincide with the annual Maralal Camel Derby. We plan to invite local leaders in order to build support from the community for Project Digniti and school sanitation.
Our future sustainability plans include recycling and making good use of the toilet by-products. The move toward sustainability is inspired by various projects around Kenya that make use of human waste to create new products, such as fuel. We have also started partnership plans with industries that will supply cleaning products for the toilets, as well as implement sustainable plans for making soap locally at the school.
Finally, after commissioning the two toilets in August, Project Digniti envisages working with partners and Nengerpus Primary School to scale the project further by building additional toilets and implementing a long-term sanitation plan at the school.