Some people’s experiences in low- and middle-income countries are not always obvious to us as development professionals. People may have specific issues, such as erratic menstruation, disability-related issues or incontinence for example, which they cannot easily discuss with others. Their needs for inclusive infrastructure are ‘hidden’ by multiple factors, which might include:

  • Their issues being neglected by scientists and therefore not written about in academic papers and book
  • Their needs are ‘taboo’ and not discussed easily in society
  • Development professionals do not work on the particular issues they face when they use infrastructure
  • Their intersectionality excludes them due to different aspects of their identity e.g. an older, disabled woman living in a slum in a low-income country

Spaces such as cities and facilities within them such as communal toilets are often designed to exclude groups such as women, transgender people and people with disabilities. These spaces are designed according to social and cultural norms, and unjust institutional practices which lead to some groups of people and the issues they face in access to infrastructure being excluded. Other aspects of hiddenness can be found in different areas of the WASH sector. Sanitation workers are often marginalised by their occupation, religion, caste, gender and other factors, but their voices are rarely heard as access to sanitation services expand. Acknowledging hiddenness and using appropriate methods to understand the realities of experiencing hidden issues are key to ensuring that infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries is inclusive for all.

Some projects I have completed in relation to this theme are: