In Nigeria, inspiring women leaders have emerged through improving rural sanitation and hygiene

Concern Universal, the Nigerian Government and WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund are working in partnership through the ‘Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Nigeria’ (RUSHPIN) programme. Its main approach, known as Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS), creates an environment where entire communities are mobilized to end open defecation. This process also opens the door for women to become powerful agents of change.

Through the CLTS approach, hundreds of women from rural communities across southeastern Nigeria are taking the lead in championing sanitation and hygiene. Here are a few of the inspiring women and how they are transforming the health of their communities:

Building Better Partnerships: Joy Ettah

Joy has built a strong rapport with communities and inspires women to take the lead in their communities.

Joy Ettah is a Community Development Officer with the Abi local government WASH department. Working alongside rural community members to help them eliminate open defecation, Joy has built a strong rapport with these communities and can see the positive impact she is having, especially inspiring women to take the lead in their communities: “I see that things are improving. This project has brought a lot of changes in their lives, and they even call me to come around when I am not on duty.”

Leading by Example: Blessing Lebo

The bottom-up CLTS approach empowers women to become champions for improved sanitation and hygiene in their communities. While often facing ridicule or social exclusion, these women also challenge established gender roles.

Blessing Lebo rallied wives to lead by example.

When Blessing Lebo, Itoli community, visited households to encourage them to build toilets, the men dismissed her as a “foolish woman”. In response, Blessing Lebo rallied their wives to lead by example. With the women building the toilets for their families, she then challenged the men: “What a man cannot do, a woman has done. So what are you men doing for this community?” Since then, the men have joined the women in building toilets, and have together succeeded in making their community open-defecation-free. Continue reading

Breaking Taboos


“We have broken a taboo and quite powerfully too,“ declared Senegal’s UN Ambassador, Fode Seck, wrapping up an event where women (and men) from around the world eagerly packed into a UN conference room – sitting even on the windowsills and floor – to discuss the impact on women and girls of inadequate menstrual hygiene, open defecation and other practices that are usually unmentionable in polite company.



Titled “Unlocking multiple benefits for women and girls through sanitation and hygiene in the post-2015 era”, the event took place on 13 March during the two-week session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Permanent Missions of Senegal and Singapore co-hosted, with the support of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and UN Women.

Singapore Ambassador Karen Tan kicked off the discussion by summing up the dire situation: 2 billion people globally lack adequate sanitation, and one billion practice open defecation, with particular challenges for women and girls, including greater risk of violence and sexual assault. There is much work to be done, she noted, in providing WASH facilities to women and girls, who “should not be ashamed of these very natural needs they have.” Continue reading

Clean and Safe Toilets: A Women’s Right

Message for International Women’s Day

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson

One third of the world population, or 2.5 billion people, live with poor sanitation. One billion people have no choice but to defecate in the open. Although everybody deserves the dignity of a safe and clean toilet, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to the effects of inadequate sanitation.

Access to safe sanitation, good hygiene and clean water is a human right. Unfortunately, hundreds of millions of women today are denied access to those services. In my visits to refugee camps and communities around the world, I have often met with women asking for clean water and safe toilets as urgent needs for themselves and their families. I will never forget their plight and their voices.

Women in Madagascar

Access to toilets protects women against violence

For women and girls, access to sanitation is not only a question of privacy and dignity, but also of safety and protection. Although gender-based violence is a complex issue, more and more evidence links lack of safe toilets for women and girls to increased physical insecurity and vulnerability.[1] Continue reading