Bob Harris, Founder of Bob’s Radio Know-how and manufacturer of the SheWee-inal®, discusses his thoughts on whether female urinals could signal the advent of a new sustainability revolution in the events industry!

What’s the problem with ‘Climate Change’? Why is sustainability so important?

I prefer the old expression ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’. For one thing, there’s a wide range of climates across the globe! Secondly, over geological time Earth has lurched from an icy sphere to hot desert, via tropical swamp with oxygen levels high enough to support gigantic insects.

However, our current climate situation is not like these natural changes: it has been predicted to change much more rapidly than ever. The warming trend can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution some two centuries ago, but it’s growing faster than ever in modern times.

There are other concerns allied with ‘global warming’: deforestation, including actual burning of rainforest, waste streams which aren’t being recycled and a general destruction of the Planet’s ecosystems. The balance of nature is being attacked by toxic waste, acidification of the oceans, plastic in the sea life, unregulated mining, habitat destruction, with consequent loss of species. They’re all interlinked, so it’s no surprise that single-issue campaigns are coming together.

Concerted action to mitigate further such degradation is leading to a Sustainability Revolution. It challenges us all to subject large-scale activity to the key criterion: is this sustainable?

What can the Events Sector do about sustainability?

The answer is a bit involved, stay with me! Various actions by world governments, NGOs and scientific institutions are fairly simply related to the immediate ecological and climatic problems. Many events are doing their bit too. One important factor, which has been overlooked for too long, is the role of women, especially in the developing world.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognises “the important contributions of women as decision makers, stakeholders, educators, carers and experts across sectors and at all levels can lead to successful, long-term solutions to climate change.”

Women are still largely underrepresented in conversations surrounding sustainability. Restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making spheres often prevent them from playing a full role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges.

Helping women in the developing world is certainly a worthy cause, but where does it tie in with the Events Sector?

I discovered the concept of ‘solidarity’ as a child long before I heard of the term. It might come across as bit vague in a digital age of hard facts and bottom lines, but it’s an ancient belief. To me it seemed obvious that how I responded to a call for help was how other human being reacted. Thus a whole social group may adopt a common mind-set, women for example.

If we in the Events Sector can do something for our own female patrons, solidarity makes it an act on behalf of all women.  The historic subjugation of women is not yet over; millions still live under rather less liberal regimes.

Whilst there are many strands to the global issue about empowering the female sex, one crying need is the provision of public sanitation for women. In developing countries there are often no toilets safe for women – for this reason, teenage girls in Africa periodically have to stay away from school.

Won’t women always have lengthy queues for temporary toilets?

There are always plenty of basic urinals for men at outdoor events (men can turn almost any upright structure into an ad hoc urinal). Despite the speed and convenience of stand-up urinals, the concept is taboo for women. The mantra is that women not only cannot but shall not use urinals! It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, guaranteed by the absolute lack of provision of any public urinals to try out! Hence, a sexual disparity – discrimination, almost!

But Western women won’t adopt female urinals!

I disagree!  It’s about education; in our experience, once mastered, women come to accept standing to pee as a normal part of life, not just for exigencies, like the nervous minutes before a mass run. More and more women are carrying around a person Female Urine Director (FUD), like SheWee, GoGirl, P-MATE etc.

Consider the atmosphere of a three-day music festival, with emerging ‘immersive’ technologies to satisfy the thirst for the ‘experiential’ impact… Women and girls are often more willing to ditch the taboos and ‘have a go’ at something novel. That includes trying out female urinals for themselves. Having ‘taken a stand’ (literally), they’ll take that empowering experience home.

From Sir David Attenborough’s appeal to the youngsters at Glastonbury, to sustainability flagship, Shambala, festivals are in the vanguard of changing social attitudes.

Is it time for female urinals to become more mainstream?

Yes! It’s a fact that, in the safe space of an outdoor event, a substantial proportion of women have used our female urinal, designed with privacy and the female anatomy in mind. FUD are given out for free, for those without their own.

So how can female urinals help render an event more sustainable?

Research done by BRKh suggests that 80% of women queueing for the polyjons at music festivals only want to urinate. Of those, say a quarter would use urinals were they provided. Simple logic indicates that 20 out of every 100 polyjons could be supplanted by female urinals. Ten berths will do the job of those 20 fewer WC cabins.

Urinals need no biocide, no water for flushing, and stay usable for longer. There are no doors, door handles or pumps to touch.

Guest Blog by Bob Harris, Founder of Bob’s Radio Know-how, manufacturers of the SheWee-inal®.

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