Katy the Carpenter Making it Happen
Katy Miliane laughed when I asked if her two-women toilet manufacturing cooperative had a name. “No,” she said, “this is just something that I do.” And she does it well, winning multiple construction bids from SOIL and producing over 80 ecological sanitation (EcoSan) ferrocement toilets in the past year.
Last year, SOIL’s Cap-Haitien Technical Director Josaphat Augustin invited women from the nearby towns of Dubout and Limonade to participate in a two-week toilet construction training course. After the course, Katy and her partner Rosie were ready to start their business – even though it doesn’t have a name (yet!).
Katy is proud of the work she and Rosie have done for SOIL. When I asked how her community feels about her work, she told me that she’s only ever gotten positive reactions, even though construction is a male-dominated field in Haiti as in the US.
I tried – with my fledgling Creole – to communicate how awesome it is that she’s not judged for the work she does, and how historically in the US it has been incredibly difficult for women to work in traditionally-male sectors like construction. I must have messed up my tenses somewhat because she not only told me I could do the work, she invited me to do it with her!
We worked on a toilet together, and she taught me how to spread the concrete on the metal mold. We made a ledge around the top of the mold for a seat and around the bottom for the foundation. We spread the concrete with our hands so that she was able to feel for the right consistency – adding cement, sand, or water when needed.
I wasn’t entirely sure that I was doing it right, but she was confident and poised. The combination of training and the experience of making 80 toilets must give you that kind of aplomb! It also has given her insight into the best way to construct ferrocement toilets, and she’s given SOIL’s technical team feedback with the same confidence she displays while constructing the toilets.
She doesn’t have plans for her cooperative to do any more construction work, even though the training she got from SOIL would enable her to take on other construction projects. She feels busy enough right now with all the toilets she’s making, and she feels confident she’ll continue to win bids from SOIL and refine her toilet design and manufacturing process.
As we were washing our hands, we joked about a possible name: Toilets by Katy! Katy’s partner Rosie might not like it, but I do.