The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Tackling the sanitation taboo through co-learning

11 July 2023

Led by DPU’s Prof Allen with a network of practitioners and researchers from seven African cities, the action-research project OVERDUE is running an online co-learning space throughout July 2023

chain link fence

The aim of the learning space is to craft a different conversation and community of practice to advance just sanitation from a feminist perspective across urban Africa.

A conversation about the full sanitation chain is long OVERDUE. 

The sanitation ‘crisis’ is far from vanishing in African cities, particularly prejudicing women and girls, as users, care givers and sanitation providers. Yet, we still talk, plan and manage cities and urban life skirting around the sanitation taboo, as if faeces and urine were not part of them.  Sanitation is more than pipes, it can make the difference between illness or health, poverty or prosperity, suffering or well-being, stigma or respect for the different groups of women and men, girls and boys engaged in the management of sanitation.  

Overdue project city map graphic
After 3 intense years of action-research in 7 African cities (Abidjan, Antananarivo, Beira, Bukavu, Freetown, Mwanza and Saint Louis) the OVERDUE project team is running an online co-learning space across the month of July, with simultaneous interpretation in Swahili, Portuguese, French and English.

Building collectively a 360-degree perspective on the sanitation service chain

Joint by over 60 participants from almost 15 cities across Africa, each session navigates the sanitation service chain by examining three critical ‘stops’: (1) Access and Construction, (2.) Storage and Distribution and (3.) Treatment and re-use.

Through each stop we are exploring everything:  

  • from pipes to people as infrastructure,  
  • from investments and policies to collective action,  
  • from sanitation facilities to health and environmental outcomes,  
  • from bylaws to social norms.

In a nutshell, everything that matters to make urban sanitation a means to build a caring and gender equitable city. 

Legacy-building: outcomes and outputs

In addition to building a community of practice across African cities, we are developing collectively a multilingual glossary on ‘poolitics’ to enable a different and though-provoking conversation, to gender sanitation debates and actions, to ensure that we don’t longer remain ‘subordinated in translation’. 

The second collective output to be produced by participants is a series of pledges towards OVERDUE’s Regional Campaign and Charter: 
We Commit-Recognise-Act-Valorise-Engender: We CRAVE #JustSanitation4African Cities.

To learn more about OVERDUE’s approach, visit the project website at: https://overdue-justsanitation.net/

If you are interested in joining our We CRAVE campaign and charter, please get in touch with Prof. Allen at a.allen@ucl.ac.uk