Community participation

Study participants from Mathare informal settlement undertaking a PGIS exercise to map sanitation facilities in their locality, assisted by Evelyne Makena. Photo: Jacinta Musyoki / SEI Africa.

Participant expectations

The participants also expressed their desire to see the findings and recommendations disseminated to various sanitation stakeholders, including advocacy organizations, funding agencies, implementers of on-site sanitation services and facilities, regulators and policymakers. They anticipated that follow-up stakeholder engagement activities would yield policy changes and action towards the improvement of sanitation in informal settlements.

They expressed a particular desire to see that increased accessibility to better sanitation in informal settlements would positively impact the health and well-being of residents in informal settlements. They noted that the study could be instrumental in triggering improvements in the social, spatial and economic value of on-site sanitation provision through gender equality, the development of well-planned and designed services and facilities, and increased economic value from on-site sanitation in the form of resource recovery products such as biogas and compost fertilizers.

“We hope that following Kenya's recent election, improvement of on-site sanitation in informal settlements will be prioritized by the forthcoming leadership dispensation in both the national and municipal levels of government-”

— Participant from Mathare, Kenya

Open discussion

George Njoroge, SEI Africa Research Fellow facilitating a men’s group discussion in Mathare informal settlement. Photo: Jacinta Musyoki / SEI Africa.

This study, a result of a consultative process, saw various tasks being deliberated on and shared out according to the members’ areas of strength.

Community sanitation dialogues and PGIS

Five community sanitation dialogues and knowledge exchange forums were held with selected residents from five informal settlements in Nairobi: Kibra, Kawangware, Korogocho, Mathare and Mukuru. These communities are considered lacking in the provision of sanitation services and facilities. The meetings comprised of both users, providers and regulators of sanitation, as well as local community leaders. The selection of study participants upheld various gender equality and social inclusion considerations, including balanced representation of both men and women and specific vulnerable groups including people with disabilities and the elderly. Children’s issues were conveyed by the adult participants.

SEI researcher

SEI Africa Junior Researcher Sharon Onyango sticks post-it notes while facilitating a group discussion with Sanitation Practitioners from Mathare informal settlement. Photo: Jacinta Musyoki / SEI Africa

The community sanitation dialogues addressed gender equality and social inclusion issues in the planning and implementation of sanitation interventions across the delivery chain. These include the types of sanitation services and facilities implemented and the involvement of the community in developing services and facilities. Accessibility and the conditions of the facilities, their conformity with the prevailing socioeconomic situation, user friendliness for residents, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, women and girls, preference for facilities by gender, ethnicity and age, and capability of facilities to serve these users effectively was also examined. Participants gave testimonials about the improvements and benefits as a result of the sanitation interventions and both perceived barriers perceived and/or experienced in local sanitation delivery strategies.

Lessons learned and opportunities that can be adopted were also discussed during a dialogue with the community. Community members acknowledged that they have drawn upon vital lessons during the consultation, adoption, implementation, use and management of various on-site sanitation facilities and services.

PGIS study participants

A study participant stresses a point during the women’s group discussion in Kibra informal settlement facilitated by Sharon Onyango. The sanitation practitioner group discussion was facilitated by Benazir Omotto of the Umande Trust. Photo: George Njoroge / SEI Africa.

The community then mapped sanitation facilities using PGIS to explore and collate the spatial distribution and accessibility of sanitation facilities. They then discussed gender equality and social inclusion issues identified through the dialogues.

The study will generate findings that will inform strategies to increase the use of high-quality shared sanitation facilities and consequently improve the quality of life in low-income settlements. It will improve understanding on the unique sanitation challenges in low-income urban areas and provide a solid evidence base to support future interventions. The interdisciplinary and community-based research approach used will build the capacity of the community in particular to engage with stakeholders and identify and act on the physical, social and associated environmental barriers to sanitation access in their localities.

In keeping with the wishes of the community, the study’s findings will contribute to current debates on policy and intervention strategies in sustainable sanitation that have engaged various groups of stakeholders, including communities, national and subnational governments, research and academia, civil society and development partners. It is expected to stimulate dialogue within communities and between political and technical government officers, sanitation providers, NGOs and development partners on the status and the gender equality and social inclusiveness of sanitation provision in informal settlements.


Evelyn Makena of WASH Alliance Kenya facilitating a women’s group discussion in Mukuru Kwa Reuben informal settlement. Photo: George Njoroge / SEI Africa.