The IRC has announced the winners of an inaugural challenge to develop innovative solutions to improve the safety of latrines in refugee and IDP camps. 

First announced last year and facilitated by the IRC Airbel Impact Lab and Environmental Health teams, together with innovative scale-up Wazoku and crowdsolving consultancy SeaFreight Labs. The challenge solicited solutions to chronic challenges facing women’s latrines, such as reliable lighting, cleanliness, and durable locking. 

Wazoku solicited solutions from the Wazoku Crowd of problem solvers, start-ups, engineers, designers, and professionals around the world, receiving 114 submissions from individuals in 44 different countries. The seven challenge winners hail from four different continents and have each received cash prizes for their ideas. The IRC intends to test, refine, and implement these winning ideas in humanitarian settings. 

The winners of this year’s challenge are: 

Lighting Winners 

Alerting Winner 

Locking Winner 

Walt Shenberger, one of the awardees in the challenge, wrote, “The lighting component of the challenge drew me initially, and it seemed like a possible fit for a modified version of a home nightlight I developed for my wife and daughter. I was honestly shocked to discover this was such a need, not for convenience, but for the basic safety of the female refugees.” 

Another awardee, Tan Chee Sing, said: “Design is about creating new ways of improving lives for people, including the underprivileged. As such, I wanted to help think of ways to improve the security and make people - especially women and girls - feel safe when they are using the toilets in refugee camps. When I realized that my solution was selected as one of the 7 winning solutions out of over a hundred solutions submitted, I was overjoyed.”  

Jeannie Annan, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at the IRC, said: “The idea for the contest emerged following conversations with IRC clients around the world, particularly women and girls living in refugee and IDP camps, who reported alarming concerns about the safety of using public latrines. Concerns about the physical safety and cleanliness of latrines, which are often poorly lit and lack adequate security measures like locks for privacy, loomed especially large.

“The IRC is proud of the innovation showcased in this challenge. The dozens of submissions we received to make latrines safer were thought-provoking, compelling and creative. Collaborative challenges like this are an important part of the IRC’s goal to drive innovation in the humanitarian sector and deliver scalable, cost-effective solutions to fragile contexts around the world.” 

Andreana Benshoff, Director of Customer Success for the Americas at Wazoku, said: "I’m proud to see such a critical challenge focused on enhancing the experience of women and girls in emergency settings really resonate with the Wazoku Crowd. It's a testament to our global, passionate Solvers to see seven individuals from seven different countries rewarded for their innovative ideas.