These women can really handle their shit…and yours too

By Daniela Morales

The phone starts to ring in the Pit Vidura office, initiating another busy work day in Kigali, Rwanda. Melissa answers the first of many phone calls and enthusiastically starts enrolling new customers. These customers all need their toilets emptied and have plenty of questions for Melissa to answer. Not only does Melissa work diligently in the office, but she also ventures out through Kigali to connect with residents and answer questions about the pit emptying service. She stops to visit an elderly woman in the rocky hills of Gitega, the densest part of the city, to discuss servicing options that might be most suitable for her. Melissa’s job is crucial for the commitment Pit Vidura has to providing Kigali residents with safe, affordable, and equitable waste removal.

Back at the office, Rachel is busy as well. She is setting up meetings with donors, overseeing other administrative duties for the organization, all while balancing her work in innovative sanitation research. As the founder of Pit Vidura, she has envisioned a bright future for this social enterprise. Pit Vidura goes beyond the technical aspects of fecal sludge removal, and has taken a social and environmental justice approach to the issue. With Rachel’s leadership and vision, Pit Vidura has helped provide low cost pit latrine emptying services for customers in the low income settlements of Kigali, Rwanda. Rachel’s work and research is helping solve the issue that Rwanda faces due to their lack of sewage systems, all while reducing the inequities that sanitation workers, women and other marginalized groups experience due to a lack of sanitation infrastructure.

Out in the field, Laura works and inspects the existing systems in the densest parts of the city. She is the engineer of the doVac or double vacuum pumping system Pit Vidura uses to transport fecal sludge from households. The fruits of Laura’s experimentation and expertise have helped connect hundreds of Kigali residents to a service that helps provide a clean living and working environment, and safely empties waste to a vacuum truck for transport. Without her knowledge and systematic approach to technology development Pit Vidura’s work would not be possible.

In Berkeley, California, Daniela is working to broaden Pit Vidura’s network by helping connect the social enterprise with audiences in the Bay Area, in Rwanda, and beyond. She is a student and activist doing her part to raise awareness about the inequalities that marginalized groups face when it comes to water and sanitation infrastructure. By working alongside the rest of the Pit Vidura team, she is able to learn more about the work being done in the field, and potential solutions to this pressing public health issue.

These are a few of the women of Pit Vidura. The work they do shapes the ability for residents in Kigali’s lowest income neighborhoods to access safe, affordable, and clean waste removal services. Everyday these services allow people to lead better lives through security, dignity, and health. Without these women, Pit Vidura would not be able to empty toilets, and waste would be haphazardly disposed of in the environment.

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