How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

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  • rkaupp
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How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hi everybody,

As you know many of us are passionate about the terrible working conditions of sanitation workers, despite their essential work. A common question is how to make them more visible, especially to authorities. Therefore we have asked Andy Peal and Chilala Haankuku Kapulu to look into a methodology to quantify and profile them. And this can be done by incorporating such findings in one of our favourite tools: Shit-Flow Diagrams! 

See WaterAid's blog for the summary and the complete report for more details. We will test this - and be curious about other agencies willing to do that too.
Rémi Kaupp
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  • paresh
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Thanks Remi for introducing to us this fascinating tool. I particularly liked the fact that like SFD reports, different levels of reports based on quality and depth of information have been considered. An important lesson from SFDs has been incorporated. It also addresses one of the critiques of the SFD and the service chain - that they are too focused on physical flow of waste while neglecting the flow of labour, political power and finance without which the material flows cannot exist ( Hyun et al, 2019 ). 
The other lesson of having a manual which standardises outputs and therefore makes them comparable over geography and temporally is incorporated, which is great. This will open up opportunities for regional and global monitoring of the status of sanitation workers. 

Reproducing below (from the manual), the types of workers proposed to be considered in such an assessment 

I am wondering how workers involved in sweeping public streets and cleaning storm water drains can be included in such an analysis. I am reminded of an argument by Prof. Sharada Prasad - given realities of the Global South, these workers end up working with human and animal excreta. Including them would recognise this fact and also encourage municipalities and contractors to provide them with equipment and PPE to deal with excreta safely.  

An analysis along the  the 4 dimensions described in the report/manual, viz; physical security, financial security, legal security and dignity of all sanitation workers (incl. street sweepers for example) can nonetheless be carried out. This is especially important in cities where wastewater/excreta management services are not provided and sanitation is equivalent to SWM for the local authorities. 

I very much like the tool and look forward to using it in my own work in the future. I am sure, like the SFDs, this tool will encourage municipalities to collect and collate the required information. As the blog you shared points out

often municipal authorities (and others responsible for sanitation services) don’t even know how many workers operate in their cities, let alone the different types, their modes of employment, legal status, the conditions they work in or how many will be needed in the future. 

Regards
paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
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  • Chaiwe
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hello Remi,

I am curious about how far this activity has gone. Are there any new results to share? 

I had similar thoughts as Paresh when I read your post, with respect to how limiting the SFD can be for something of this sort. allow me to quote a resource he shared:

one of the critiques of the SFD and the service chain - that they are too focused on physical flow of waste while neglecting the flow of labour, political power and finance without which the material flows cannot exist (  Hyun et al, 2019  )

I look forward to your feedback.

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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hello, from what I know in Zambia, NWASCO (regulator) is using this for assessments in Lusaka and another city. No results yet but we'll share when we know more!
Rémi Kaupp
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

This is an interesting thread and I thought Paresh made some very good points. If we want to make sanitation workers more visible, should we take the narrower definition of sanitation workers being only those dealing with faecal sludge and sewage (essentially liquid waste) or also those dealing with solid waste? 
I am quoting from Paresh's post:

I am wondering how workers involved in sweeping public streets and cleaning storm water drains can be included in such an analysis. I am reminded of an argument by Prof. Sharada Prasad - given realities of the Global South, these workers end up working with human and animal excreta. Including them would recognise this fact and also encourage municipalities and contractors to provide them with equipment and PPE to deal with excreta safely.  

I think we should not squander the opportunity here and be inclusive to ALL sanitation workers. Or, if not, do we need to coin a more specific term? Like:
  • Liquid waste sanitation workers; or
  • Sewage and faecal sludge sanitation workers ?
(compare also with the definitions explained in the Wikipedia article on sanitation workers)

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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Dear SuSanA Members, 

On the recognition of " Sanitation workers" for their work or task deliveries and providing them with apt dignity and respect them all, for all that they do, is definitely needed to be recognised and lauded.

Most countries including India have afforded a well designated Services category for workers, technicians and others as regards to the Sector dealing with Electrical H/T cable lines and associated work Etc. These Services have always been very well respected, and placed well for the work meted out by them in general and specifically for most emergency type of tasks done during natural disaster times like floods, tsunami others.

The Communities need to Institute  well planned mechanisms such that similar type of status is afforded to The Sanitation Workers, also.
It is not difficult, and if we browse around and assess , it is possible that all arrangements in this regard, would be in place.
All that is needed is to give them the Official recognition by the respective Government or Administrative Departments under the requisite sectors.

All these safe and secure working mechanisms are needed most at these Pandemic times, and hence it would be the right time, to Institute appropriate health and hygiene practices, applying WASH principles Etc.

Guidelines suggested, for doing Social and Environmental good in Communities., with well wishes.

Prof Ajit Seshadri,
The Vigyan Vijay Foundation Ngo,  
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
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  • rkaupp
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hi Elisabeth,

I agree that all waste workers deserve good consideration, and can suffer from a variety of harms. I would argue though that solid waste workers already get support from a variety of organisations, like WIEGO, co-operatives, etc.
When we did initial research into the living conditions of sanitation workers, we found that in most cases, such initiatives targeted at waste workers / scavengers didn't include sanitation workers. The current initiatives are however creating a better dialogue between these worlds.

Rémi
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

But I think it's problematic if we're trying to establish a new terminology by saying that "sanitation workers" excludes the solid waste workers.

What would you say is the overarching term for both? I have the feeling that when you look outside of the development cooperation sector, then "sanitation worker" is used differently to how it's used in the WASH sphere. 

This is how it's worded in the Wikipedia article (probably written by me):

sanitation worker (or sanitary worker) is a person responsible for cleaning, maintaining, operating, or emptying the equipment or technology at any step of the  sanitation  chain. [1] : 2  This is the definition used in the narrower sense within the  WASH  sector. More broadly speaking, sanitation workers may also be involved in cleaning  streets parks public spaces sewers stormwater drains , and  public toilets . [2]  Another definition is: "The moment an individual’s waste is outsourced to another, it becomes sanitation work." [3] : 4 

I think it would be better to say that "sanitation worker" is the overarching term. For sub-types you could have:
  • Solid waste workers
  • Liquid waste workers (what you currently call sanitation workers)
  • Cleaners, street sweepers etc.
If you don't think that would work then what would be your proposal for the overarching term?

And I think solid waste workers generally feel equally neglected and looked down upon like anyone else who has to deal with important but smelly tasks. :-( Perhaps one difference is that at least in high-income countries, they usually have a lot of useful machinery at their disposal and don't have to do as much manual labour as in low-income countries. Like the garbage trucks where a robotic arm lifts up the bins and tips them into the truck - the driver doesn't even have to leave the truck for the pickups.

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Elisabeth
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hi Elisabeth, sure it's fine to use your wider description. There's differing uses between countries of course, in the US, "sanitation workers" means you pick up bins, in some other countries it will only mean faecal waste. So use what makes most sense for you!
All the best
Rémi
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hi Rémi,

Hmmmm, I think this is one of the problems we have in the WASH sector that there is so often confusion about terminology. Everyone uses terms how they like it best, and then for people who are slightly outside of the inner core it can be hard to follow.

Therefore, I would hope that SuSanA (or Wikipedia?) can help to clarify terms and perhaps even unify different approaches. Especially if we have a forum category here called "sanitation workers", it would be good to have consensus as to what is meant, globally, not specifically for just one region or country (India). 

You (WaterAid), Worldbank and others would prefer that "sanitation workers" equals those working in faecal sludge management, did I get that right? Or: "A sanitation worker (or sanitary worker) is a person responsible for cleaning, maintaining, operating, or emptying the equipment or technology at any step of the   sanitation   chain."?
What would be your proposal for the overarching term, the one that also includes the solid waste workers and the street cleaners? 

I feel that the Wikipedia article does not yet paint the full picture properly. It might be one of the places that people turn to when they want to look up what the definition of a "sanitation worker" is. That's why I keep bringing this up. It might be a bit academic but I think it's important because it has knock-on effects. 

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Elisabeth
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hi Rémi,

Hmmmm, I think this is one of the problems we have in the WASH sector that there is so often confusion about terminology. Everyone uses terms how they like it best, and then for people who are slightly outside of the inner core it can be hard to follow.

Therefore, I would hope that SuSanA (or Wikipedia?) can help to clarify terms and perhaps even unify different approaches. Especially if we have a forum category here called "sanitation workers", it would be good to have consensus as to what is meant, globally, not specifically for just one region or country (India). 

You (WaterAid), Worldbank and others would prefer that "sanitation workers" equals those working in faecal sludge management, did I get that right? Or: "A sanitation worker (or sanitary worker) is a person responsible for cleaning, maintaining, operating, or emptying the equipment or technology at any step of the   sanitation   chain."?
What would be your proposal for the overarching term, the one that also includes the solid waste workers and the street cleaners? 

I feel that the Wikipedia article does not yet paint the full picture properly. It might be one of the places that people turn to when they want to look up what the definition of a "sanitation worker" is. That's why I keep bringing this up. It might be a bit academic but I think it's important because it has knock-on effects. 

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(with financial support by GIZ from July to November 2021)

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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • rkaupp
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Re: How to make sanitation workers more visible - with SFDs!

Hi Elisabeth. I don't think it's a sectoral problem, it's just that different countries use different words for the same thing. Same issue with refuse / garbage / waste, etc.
It's admittedly inconvenient for Wikipedia and leads to "fun" arguments there, but I don't think it is such an issue for practical work in the sector, if needed we clarify who we're talking about.
Best wishes
Rémi
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