Informing policy through local voices

Hygiene solutions are often not designed with regards to people with disabilities. Policy-makers, healthcare workers, family and community members rarely have the information and understanding of how best to address the needs of those who are disabled. This leads to frustration and marginalization. Much stands to be gained by including more voices in the policy process.

Nadia, 26, is an energetic and outspoken motivational speaker and corporate trainer by profession. She has been involved in welfare activities for the disabled in Pakistan and shared her experience of trying to use public toilets. As she uses a wheelchair, the biggest obstacle for her is lack of enough space while using a public toilet.

– Since the doors of public washrooms open inwards, I am often not able to enter with my wheelchair and have to wait for someone to help me and this may take too much time. The difficulties in accessing the toilets not only cause inconvenience but increase the risk of kidney infections and failure among the disabled.

Young woman in a wheelchair (photo)

Nadia’s case is not unusual. Regardless of the country, there is often a lack of attention given to the hygiene needs of those who are disabled. Restrooms are only one example. Nadia must often wait for someone to assist her, even though she is independent in her wheelchair.

Nadia shared her story at a recent national consultation with the elderly and disabled in Lahore, Pakistan. The consultation was supported by Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA) and WSSCC.43 During the sessions, participants were encouraged to share their stories, challenges and recommendations for improved access to sanitation and better hygiene practices for policy-makers and local government officials in Pakistan.

Recommendations from the South Asia consultations include:

  • Organize regular community meetings to enhance participation and collective decision-making on WASH facilities.
  • Ensure availability and access to toilets in all public places, especially for women, the elderly and the disabled.
  • Develop and enforce norms and standards for gender-friendly and disabled-friendly WASH facilities in public institutions.
  • Facilitate convergence between various departments to ensure that vulnerable groups are represented and their needs are met through their participation and inclusion in planning and implementation of WASH programs at community level.

Source material from Rashid Mahmood, Director, Punjab Urban Resource Center, Lahore and Convener FANSA Pakistan

The recommendations from these consultations were shared at the regional level, during the South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN), which took place in Pakistan in early April 2018, with a plan to use these practical examples as foundational information for the Ministerial Declaration, which will be signed off at the end of the conference by all eight country governments in South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka at the highest levels. This declaration then serves as a policy to encourage change at the national level.

43The consultation was organized by Punjab Urban Resource Centre in collaboration with the Punjab Welfare Trust for the Disabled (PWTD). Additional support was provided by WaterAid.