World Toilet Day

It’s World Toilet Day!

On the 19th of November, the United Nations has organised ‘World Toilet Day’ in response to the startling fact that 2.5 billion people across the world do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines. In fact, according to the World Toilet Organization, 1 billion people (15% of the world population) are forced to practice open defecation just because of they lack access to a clean and safe toilet.

A COCO Supported Toilet Block

A COCO Supported Toilet Block

Poor sanitation is extremely dangerous, causing diarrhoeal diseases and death amongst thousands of children every year. Additionally, the lack of clean and safe toilets place girls and women at risk of sexual violence. The Secretary General of the UN, Bank Ki-moon, argues that, “We have a moral imperative to end open defecation and a duty to ensure women and girls are not at risk of assault and rape simply because they lack a sanitation facility.”

When tackling poverty, providing a clean and safe toilet can be more important than what you think. The World Toilet Organization argues that every $1 spent on water and sanitation generates a $4.3 return in the form of reduced health care costs.

A New Toilet Block At Mercy Primary School

World Toilet Day is important for the environment too. Under Sustainable Development Goal 14, the global community has a responsibility to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This includes an imperative to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025. Without toilets, many people are force to resort to open defecation. According to the World Health Organization, many common diseases that can give diarrhoea can spread from one person to another when people defecate in the open air. During the rainy seasons, excrement may be washed away by rain-water. It may run into wells and streams, and the germs in the excreta will then contaminate the water which may be used for drinking, cooking or washing. This in turn leads to the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid.

In order to tackle this problem at our overseas projects, COCO has built new toilet blocks for students and teachers. By providing toilets at school, it is hoped that students won’t feel that they have to miss out on education. This may be particularly important for female students who would otherwise suffer from a lack of privacy, especially during menstruation.

Toilets have been constructed across our overseas projects, including at Mercy Primary School, The Hoja Project, and Uwawayaki Nursery School. COCO has also worked to make these toilets serve the local communities by providing compost and biogas to help fertilize crops and provide fuel for cooking.

Children Washing Their Hands Before Lunch

Children Washing Their Hands Before Lunch

It may seem like such a simple thing, but a toilet really can make all the difference to a child’s life.

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Sustainable Societies

After all of the excitement of COCO’s 15th birthday ball, we are very proud to have raised over £15,000 during the evening! To show you how your donations are making a real difference to the lives of so many, here is another instalment of how COCO is working hard to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as set out by the UN in September. Your support makes this amazing work possible.

SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

SDG 11, then, is another particularly ambitious goal because it encompasses so many different targets which may prove challenging to achieve in rural settlements. However, one of the main targets of SDG 11 is to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities, by 2030.

COCO has been working hard to finance and build a sports field for children at the Maasai Academy in Kenya. The Maasai Academy was started in 2008 by 3 parents with 6 children.  The reason for starting this Academy was that they wanted to make sure their children receive a good education.  This Academy has now grown to 120 Children in 6 classes with 7 Teachers and a food security program.

The Olorte Academy is part of COCO’s ‘Schools for Life’ program launched in July 2014. One of the key parts of this program is ‘recreation’. Schools for Life offer children the opportunity to enjoy sport and recreational activities, producing healthy and happy well-rounded children with confidence and skills both inside and outside the classroom. Recreation cultivates great friendship and encourages social interaction. This enables students to develop social skills and engage with others. Team sports and competition promote motivation and enthusiasm whilst also creating a healthy lifestyle.

Building the Sports Field

Building the Sports Field

Due to the Academy being situated on a hill with a steep slope running down to a road, there was an opportunity to build a sports field on this steep slope with the help of heavy machinery.  Up to this point, all the outdoor activities, such as assembly, games and sport, were played on this steep gradient.  It was very hard for the children to play sports on this hill, as they frequently fell and injured themselves. However, with hard work and dedication, COCO have now finished transforming this steep slope into a great sports field for all of the children.  This is the first purpose built Sports Field in this remote area of Maasai Land. The final step in this project will be to buy sports equipment for the children to play with.

SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

This SDG specifically aims to prevent abuse and exploitation, and tries to ensure a fairer community for all. Although there is a strong focus here on the global justice system, including courts and legal matters, we can also take a broader view and consider social inclusion. In many societies, for example, people of a particular gender are excluded, even if only informally, from education. This can cause wider problems, including a lack of employment opportunities, or poor financial and food security. It is clear to see that society needs to be inclusive from the very beginning. That’s why it is so important to help as many children as possible to get into education. The benefits of doing so last a lifetime.

Last week, we looked at how COCO helps young girls into education, and how important this can be for broadening their horizons and expelling cultural myths surrounding discriminatory procedures such as female genital mutilation. Without education and social inclusion, gender can dictate the life chances available to a young person.  However, by working together to provide opportunities for children to get to school, we can help to reduce violence against women.

2011 02 Kili BG (188)

What’s more COCO is fighting social exclusion by operating in rural areas, where improvements in technology may be slow to reach and infrastructure difficult to build. Safety can be a key concern for local communities, especially during storm seasons where the weather can make roads unsafe and journeys by foot particularly difficult. Building classrooms and training teachers is vital to helping children from these communities to receive an education. Without this work, they would be forced to make drastic decisions; a challenging trek to school across miles of difficult terrain, or to simply not go at all. By helping communities to build and manage schools in their locality, more children can access education and broaden their future employment opportunities.

SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The final SDG we are looking at today is all about finance, capacity-building and sustainability world-wide. This goal is entrenched in politics and state co-operation, hoping to improve relations and global economics.

This is another extremely broad issue, and something that governments, charities, non-governmental organisations and individuals will have to work together to achieve. However, COCO’s overseas projects can help to promote the development of environmentally sound technologies in developing countries. For example, thanks to funding from COCO, rural communities in Tanzania have benefited greatly from sustainable agriculture training. One lady called Happy grew successful crops of tomatoes, bananas and Chinese leaf within 3 months of attending the training course. This has been an amazing opportunity for her to learn more about her garden, and now she can grow enough food to feed her entire family, including her baby Maureen. Happy and her daughter Maureen

For Happy, sustainable agriculture training will be life-changing; ‘‘I want to educate the community and help them to help themselves…I want many women to be involved – women in this area are very poor and living a hard life. I think that sustainable agriculture can help this and we can work together for success, sharing knowledge and space to become successful, in the end sharing the income and reducing the local poverty.’’

By starting from a grassroots level, it is clear that COCO can make a huge difference to the lives of so many people in rural communities. It may only be a drop in the ocean, but to people like Happy, education and entrepreneurship is life changing.

Environment and Energy

This week, we are looking at some more of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are concerned with the environment and sustainable energy. In our 15 years, COCO has raised over £2.8 million. We know that barriers to education often involve environmental factors or problems concerning sustainable, reliable energy. However, working together, we can make a real difference to the lives of some of the world’s poorest communities. Last year alone, COCO’s projects positively impacted on the lives of over 15,000 people.

SDG Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Most of us probably don’t even think about how much clean water we use every day. We rarely think about how easy it is to do everyday tasks, such as washing our clothes, cooking, showering or bathing, or even just having a cup of tea.

The scary fact is that access to water and sanitation is not the norm for everyone.

Some Facts and Figures

  • Today, at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is contaminated by sewage.
  • 2.4 billion People lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines
  • Each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases

Water and Sanitation Initiatives

Here at COCO, we think everyone deserves access to safe water and sanitation. Water is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. That’s why, in 2014, we teamed up with Development Direct to implement water and sanitation initiatives at Mercy Primary School in Kenya.

This project included harvesting rainwater, building compost toilets and providing hand wash and drinking water facilities for students and teachers. Since implanting these initiatives, there have tangible benefits for both the school and the local community.Optimized-photo 2

Mercy Primary School and the surrounding community are situation on the edge of Lake Victoria. Everyone is reliant on water from the lake, which means that the water is unsanitary and waterborne illnesses are a serious concern. However, the headmaster of Mercy School, Hermon Okongo, is convinced that the numbers of waterborne diseases are falling due to the new initiatives. Although it is too soon to gather quantitative evidence of this, the larger than usual number of students enrolling at Mercy School is a positive sign.

SDG Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Energy is a major challenge across the globe. It seems that everyone is either using too much or too little. In fact, despite the huge problems of climate change, 1 in 5 people still lacks access to modern electricity.

Energy also plays a huge role in poverty. Without access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy, seemingly mundane tasks such as staying warm and cooking meals are so much more difficult.

Renewable energy projects, often with international donor assistance, have demonstrated that renewable energy can contribute to poverty alleviation. Renewable energy directly supplies businesses and jobs, and turns locally available resources into productive economic assets. This directly links to SDG Goal 8: Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. By providing the energy to increase employment opportunities, and developing technologies and business in local communities, renewable energy encourages economic growth across developing countries.

Renewable energy technologies can also make indirect contributions to alleviating poverty by providing energy for cooking and space heating. By making light more affordable and reliable, renewable energy technologies also permit schools and businesses to operate after dark; access to energy amplifies human capacity.

In 2014, COOC and Cititec worked together to install a solar power system at Hoja Secondary School in Songea, Tanzania. The solar panel system was used to provide energy for a classroom and for lights across the school premises, including the dormitories.

Renewable energy provides an extra edge to teaching

Renewable energy provides an extra edge to teaching

The solar classroom is benefitting students, teachers and project coordinators. The solar classroom provides much needed teaching aids, adding an extra dimension to teaching and making it easier for teachers to keep students stimulated and engaged. For instance, science classes are much more accessible now, because students are able to watch films of scientific experiments rather than just merely reading about them. Having sustainable, reliant energy also means that the school can save 100,000Tsh (£36) per month by accessing educational films rather than buying expensive chemicals for experiments.

The final SDG we are looking at today is Goal 9. This is concerned with building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation. This may seem extremely ambitious, because it essentially means that an entire community needs a modern make-over to improve irrigation, sanitation, roads, transport… the list goes on. However, COCO has always taken a holistic approach to removing barriers to education. We cannot alleviate poverty without helping local communities, as well as the schools that serve them.

To show how we’ve been working to achieve this, we’re going back to Mercy Primary School in Kenya. As a result of the water and sanitation initiatives, Mercy Primary School has been able to cultivate a ‘Food Forest’. This provides an abundant source of nutritious food to students and teachers at the school. COCO’s coordinator at Mercy Primary, George Odhiambo, explained that, despite there being harsh and dry weather conditions in the local area, the Food Forest has been able to produce crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, paw-paw, cow peas, African spider flower and muringa. In an effort to maintain momentum and keep the ‘Food Forest’ full, he is also carrying out research into the hardiest varieties of plants to ensure the best one is grown during subsequent planting. By ensuring that the infrastructure is in place, we can help to alleviate the roots of poverty.

The Food Farm at Mercy Primary School

The Food Farm at Mercy Primary School

You can find out more about how COCO is meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals next week. All facts and figures, and many more, can be found on the UN’s website here: Sustainable Development Goals

Here Come the Girls!

As you probably know, we have been tracing how COCO is helping to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This week, we are investigating inequality. Many of the SDGs target inequality in some form, but two goals in particular focus on this issue. 1a Shelter

SDG 5 is all about achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls. Feminism and the concept of empowering women has played an influential role in international relations and public policy over recent years; you will probably remember the popular #heforshe twitter campaign kick-started by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, and the passing of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 which modernised and expanded the ban on the practice in the UK.

Discrimination against women and girls both in the public sphere and in their own homes is still ongoing. COCO works in a variety of developing countries, and in some communities, there are serious challenges for women and girls.

Across Africa, the legal minimum age for marriage varies from puberty upwards, and in many countries the legal minimum age for marriage is higher for boys. It comes as no surprise then that some girls are unable to continue going to school as they are forced into marriage.

Another huge challenge is the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). In one of our previous blog posts, ‘Education Removes Ignorance: Listening to Lekrumuni’ , our research team explored how students in Tanzania regarded education as an effective way of tackling issues concerning FGM and women’s rights. By promoting education, it is clear that we can make a real difference to the lives of women and girls across the world.

SDG 10 is also concerned with equality. Here, the UN aims to reduce inequality within and among countries. Although this may sound extremely ambitious, and probably something that needs to be worked on from a governmental level, international development charities like COCO can also help to promote this goal. Group smiling kids

Some of the main targets of SDG 10 include empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status, and ensuring equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action. Many of COCO’s overseas projects are in extremely remote areas, where long-held myths surround discriminatory practices, such as FGM. As a matter of practicality, remote communities are less likely to come into contact with new ideas or scientific advances which disprove stereotypes surrounding gender, sex and social roles.

Education gives girls and women a valuable resource. As noted in the previous blog post, one student summed this up neatly; “education tackles ignorance.” The work that COCO does in our overseas projects aims to create safe, inclusive learning environments to help provide a sustainable future.