Women are making this business boom
In this small business in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia, women are the driving force behind the production of a lucrative, disability-friendly latrine product. In 2016, with support from the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation and DFAT, iDE implemented a small pilot program to manufacture disability-friendly latrine shelters with an innovative, low cost building technology: pressed interlocking bricks. With grooved slots and Lego-like features, these bricks naturally fit with one another, minimizing the need for mortar during construction and saving time and money. They allow for a wide degree of customizability, so latrine shelter purchasers with specific needs like a wheelchair can be readily accommodated. Stronger than the clay bricks traditionally used in rural Cambodian construction, these interlocking bricks can securely support handrails around a toilet that enable easier sitting and standing. On top of it all, these bricks are pressed, not fired like the clay ones, preventing carbon emissions.
In order to get this technology to the Cambodian rural countryside, iDE sought out the best-performing business that it was working within Siem Reap delivering latrines and latrine shelters. After facilitating the transfer of the brick production machinery, iDE engineers trained the business on how to install disability-friendly latrine shelters with the interlocking bricks, complete with sitting (as opposed to squatting) latrine pans. In a short period of time, demand for interlocking brick latrine shelters surpassed the capacity of the business to produce them. Efficiency in the manufacturing process became the top priority. According to the business owner, “the men were doing a careless job,” and his female employees showed an attention to detail critical for this type of precision product. Soon, the entire production line was women, and the business has begun to truly boom. In less than two years, the business owner producing these bricks made enough profit to buy another set of machinery in cash, priced at nearly $10,000 USD. The business has sold over 200 latrine shelters, with over half of these going directly to families that have members with a disability.
Photo: pressed interlocking bricks