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Night Loo

A safe toilet for women living in refugee camps

What it does

A reusable personal urinal allowing women and girls living in refugee camps to relieve themselves within the safety and comfort of their own shelter at night, when the threat of rape makes going to the communal latrines too dangerous.

Your inspiration

Rape is so pervasive in refugee camps that many women are too afraid to use the toilets at night; lack of safe access to toilets poses grave risks to women's health and dignity. The WHO acknowledges that sexual violence is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights. My research into sexual violence within refugee camps revealed that communal toilet facilities were a common location for such attacks. When I learned that women and girls were avoiding the toilets at night by such means as avoiding food and drink, holding all night, and asking aid workers for adult diapers, I knew there had to be a better solution.

How it works

The injection molded silicone loo is designed for squatting over; the petal-like flaps create a splash guard when open and snap closed to cover the contents after use. After urinating and rinsing herself, the user drops in a small pre-portioned packet of super-absorbent polymer (SAP) encased in dissolving PVA film, which turns liquid waste into an odorless powder in less than one minute. In the morning when it is safer to go, she can carry the loo to the latrines; one end pops out into a spout, allowing her to simply pour out the powder. The loo is easily cleaned by unfolding it flat.

Design process

Began with research to define the problem to be solved, then identified my design criteria: protect from harm, preserve dignity, and be practical and simple to use. Ideation, then narrowed to 3 potential design directions: interrupting/deterring attack, exposing attacker, and avoiding attack altogether – the latter of the 3 was the strongest. Initial prototype: a commode made from repurposed plastic water jugs with sand/dirt for absorption; I tested this prototype at home and identified areas for improvement: absorbent material, hygiene, ease of emptying and cleaning out. Tested 20+ materials (plant-based and polymers) with water, comparing absorption volume, speed, and ease of cleanup. Tested the best 8 of those materials with urine, comparing mitigation of odor and cleanup; the best was super-absorbent polymer (SAP) known as “instant snow.” Next I considered how best to incorporate the absorbent material for ease of repeated usage, and created pre-portioned packets of SAP encased in dissolving PVA film. Next I redesigned the container to maximize ease of use – for urinating, storing, carrying, emptying, and cleaning – with a goal in mind for a flat-packable design. Final design: folding silicone loo with splash guard, closable top, pop-out spout, that can be unfolded flat.

How it is different

Night Loo is quite unique in that it is a product designed explicitly to help women in refugee camps avoid rape by offering a safe and hygienic means of urinary relief. It is far more sustainable than disposable urinals or adult diapers – only the absorbed urine is discarded – the container is durable and reusable. Tidier and more pleasant than a bedpan or chamber pot – the folded design offers splash guard, secure cover, and spout for emptying, and the SAP mitigates both odor and spillage by turning liquid urine to dry odorless powder. The dissolving pre-portioned packets of SAP eliminate the inconvenience of measuring and excess packaging waste. The folded design transforms as needed for a more convenient user experience, and it unfolds flat for shipping and for easy cleaning. The product is compact, simple to use, and safe to keep inside the living quarters.

Future plans

The next steps are to produce an actual working prototype of Night Loo from injection molded silicone, and to pursue grant funding and technical support to bring the product to market. My goal is to work with refugee-serving agencies (such as UNHCR) to distribute to as many women as possible.


Global Grad Show - Official Selection (2018); Core77 Design Award - Student Notable, Design for Social Impact (2018); IDSA/IDEA Award - Finalist (2018); Denhart Sustainability Prize - Special Recognition for Social Impact (2018)

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