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Researching the human right to sanitation in Burkina Faso

Published on: 22/06/2015

In this blog, I explain the process behind my research on human rights in Burkina Faso's water and sanitation sector. The resulting research report focuses on how the integration of sanitation as a human right in national policies and strategies can improve access to sanitation in rural areas, in particular for the country's most socially and geographically marginalised group: Burkina Faso's women living in rural areas.

When I started researching the water and sanitation sector in Burkina Faso, preliminary desk research pointed towards the fact that the sector faces a range of problems, particularly when it comes to rural areas. Although the National Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (PN-AEPA) has played a crucial role in working towards achieving MDG-based targets for water and sanitation, evidence confirms a serious delay in progress, which has especially been the case for improving sanitation access in rural areas. Further research indicated high levels of exclusion of the poor and vulnerable in the sector, despite the fact that Burkina Faso was among the first countries to ratify water and sanitation as a human right.

In practice, a great majority of the country's rural population resorts to open defecation on a daily basis. But what does this mean for the most vulnerable and socially marginalised group? In Burkina Faso, where women in rural areas are particularly vulnerable due to their geographic and societal marginalisation, the widespread lack of latrines is prone to have an especially harmful impact on the women involved. With only limited documentation available regarding this matter, my aim was to explore and reveal the ways in which the lack of latrines in Burkina Faso's rural areas may be affecting women in particularly negative ways. 

In order to gain insight on the reality lived by the majority of women living in rural areas, an important component of my research consisted of speaking to women living in rural communities. To my surprise, several women were extremely willing to speak to me about this subject despite the widespread taboos that exist in Burkina Faso regarding female sanitation practices and needs. Several women were highly verbal about the sanitation-related difficulties they face every day, and with their approval I was able to produce video footage that support the notion that women's rights to health, education, safety, and dignity are breached by the lack of latrine.

Furthermore, I held several interviews with professionals working in the fields of water and sanitation, human rights, and/or gender issues, that could further provide me with valuable insights and relevant documents. These interviews further brought forward the ways in which women in rural areas are particularly hit by the lack of latrines, and the difficulty that women face in voicing their concerns related to sanitation, particularly in front of men. The interviews and testimonials support existing evidence that there seems to be a discrepancy between women's demand for sanitation and their ability to influence the decision of opting for a household latrine. 

With the upcoming national response to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being defined, introducing and opening up the discussion of human rights and gender in Burkina Faso's sanitation policies is a first important step in overcoming the shortcomings experienced with the PN-AEPA. I hereby invite you to read my research report, and to thereby find out the ways in which I believe that integrating water and sanitation as a human right in Burkina Faso is a key move towards improving the sanitation situation in rural areas- and to simultaneously guarantee an improvement of the respect of women's rights in Burkina Faso.

 

 

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