Breaking down sanitation taboos: The female masons of Uganda 

By Sam Franklin, Communications Officer, FINISH Mondial Uganda

Over the years, sanitation in districts within the Rwenzori region has been very poor. According to the Kabarole district WASH master plan 2018-2023, over 60% of latrines in rural areas are poorly constructed, do not meet the standards for basic sanitation and cannot be emptied. In addition, 4% of the population has no access to any sanitation facility and 81% of the population in Kabarole get by with traditional pit latrines.

The FINISH Mondial programme, implemented by Caritas Fort Portal –HEWASA and Amref Health Africa has transformed communities by improving the sanitation standards through promotion of safely managed sanitation facilities.

45% of these sanitation systems have been constructed by women. Training females to construct toilets has not only strengthened the local supply chains, but also boosted the economic strength and improved the livelihoods of these women.

One of them is Tweheyo Naume. She is 23-years-old and has already constructed over 80 sanitation systems. For her, setting up her own business is a dream come true: “I want to thank the FINISH programme for involving us ladies, they have trained us and now we have acquired skills in constructing different sanitation technologies. They have created job opportunities for us and now we are able to look after ourselves and help our families, as well”. Before adding: “People in our communities have been suffering from several diseases, like cholera and typhoid, but because of the improved sanitation situation, people no longer suffer and their earnings have even increased due to less spending”.

Her family is very proud of her and supportive, and she now dreams of getting known in the region and of setting up a construction company only for women as a way of empowering them. She has also started a poultry project from the income she earned in sanitation construction, together with her mother, and she expects to have at least 500 chicken birds by the end of the year.

Naume has started training other women in the construction of safe sanitation systems, too. The training is always done on site and more than 40 women have benefitted from Naume’s experience, so far. The women masons are all in high demand: “These days, people prefer women masons to be the ones to construct their sanitation facilities because they produce quality work and on time”, explains Sunday Adolf, the master mason who trained and mentored Naume at the beginning of her masons’ journey, “I am very happy that ladies have joined the masonry work of constructing sanitation facilities. All along, only men have been considered to do the construction work, but nowadays, I actually see ladies doing it better than us men”.

Naume and the other female masons have seen significant increases in their household’s income and their standards of living. The involvement of women masons is seen as a great achievement for FINISH Mondial. And the programme is not only making an important contribution to gender equality and empowerment of women in the region, it also helps to reduce unemployment in our communities. No doubt, we need to encourage more women to come on board!

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