The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Advocating for just sanitation across urban Africa

23 June 2022

We are pleased to share the outputs from the MSc ESD/OVERDUE Learning Alliance, in which students and partners have developed advocacy strategies on four key overlooked links to advance just sanitation

overdue drawn project poster

Over the past six months, the action-research project OVERDUE: Tackling the sanitation taboo across urban Africa and MSc ESD students and staff have teamed up through a new Learning Alliance to collaboratively develop advocacy strategies on four key overlooked links to advance just sanitation: land and housing tenure security, gendered normalised sanitation work and duties, public toilets use in markets, and closing the loop practices.

Sanitation has long been recognised as a human right – the very basic right to dispose safely of human waste – yet we witness a massively prevailing everyday rights and deeply gendered violation, endured by at least 60% of the urban population in Africa and 2.4 billion people worldwide. Sanitation supports urban life in all its forms, and it is deeply gendered, but it continues to be invisibilised, instinctively avoided, systematically un-tackled or at best reduced to a ‘cultural, technical or financial problem’.

In order to address this challenge, in 2022, the Practice Module of the MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD) teamed up with the action-research project OVERDUE to interrogate the infrastructural trajectories and possible pathways to tackle the sanitation taboo across African cities and to advance just sanitation, a task at the core of the Open Defecation Free (ODF) campaign and underpinning the achievement of most SDGs.

Our collaborative work was developed with OVERDUE partners in the cities of Abidjan (GEPALEF, Ivory Coast), Antananarivo (SiMIRALENTA, Madagascar), Beira (FACE and Austral, Mozambique), Bukavu (CFCEM/GA, Democratic Republic of Congo), Freetown (SLURC, Sierra Leone), Mwanza (CCI and Ardhi University, Tanzania) and St. Louis (OGDS, Senegal).

Taking sanitation as an entry point, and under the leadership of Adriana Allen and Julia Wesely, the MSc ESD/OVERDUE Learning Alliance adopted a comparative and feminist political ecology perspective to advance socio-environmental justice across urban Africa. This year, we focused on four entry points identified by our partners as key overlooked links: 1. Land and housing tenure security, with a particular focus on tenants’ rights; 2. Sanitation workers, especially reframing unpaid domestic duties as work; public and shared toilet facilities, with a focus on access and maintenance of toilets in market areas; and 4. Closing the loop practices, aiming to upscale and network innovative energy and agricultural practices.

The first phase of the research (January to April) was co-designed and implemented remotely between the students in London and partners across the seven African cities where OVERDUE is working. We then got together to deepen our analyses and develop advocacy plans in the UK during our Practice Engagement in Aylesford, Kent, in May 2022.

The ESD/OVERDUE Learning Alliance students, staff and partners group photo

Have a look at the advocacy videos produced by the MSc ESD students to advance just sanitation for all across urban Africa, and join their efforts by disseminating them as widely as possible. Together, we can flip the script!

No Tenant Left Behind

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYvxLIKOwu0

Work, Not Duty

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlJKntciRX0


Shifting Sanitation Realities

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTZQ6S8UezQ


Human Waste: Fertile Ground for Change

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnLpeK4yIk8