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How these eco toilets are saving nature and empowering women in rural areas

In many rural parts of the world, people do not have access to any bathroom facilities and therefore must use makeshift bathrooms that are at risk of contaminating the soil or local watershed, which also leave them at risk. That’s why Jenifer Colpas designed a unique toilet that is more than just a bathroom—it’s an unlikely hero and an opportunity to empower women, protect watersheds and finally flush widespread sanitation-related illness down the drain for good.

The toilet that Colpas designed, the baño grata, is a simple structure that can be installed with local labor at a minimal cost. The ecological toilet does not use any water at all, which saves approximately 270,000 liters per year when compared to a conventional toilet. Rather than use water, the baño grata uses a mixture of lime, sawdust, and ashes that works together to neutralize the odors of organic matter and turn it into fertilizer.

Beyond dealing with waste properly, the social enterprise that Colpas set up, which is called Tierra Grata, is installing toilets to help women gain a more important role in society. In Colombia, for instance, the lack of access to a private or accessible toilet can deter women from participating actively in society — preventing them from attending meetings and training that would otherwise support their roles as leaders and decision-makers. If a woman knows there is nowhere to use the bathroom for miles around, she is more likely to skip out on an activity, and the community misses out on her contribution. That’s why Tierra Grata is working nonstop to make their eco-friendly toilets more common around the world.

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