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

New MDG 2014 Report: 1 billion people still resort to open defecation.

Note: The following is an excerpt from the newly released 2014 Millennium Development Goals report.

Over a quarter of the world’s population has gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, yet a billion people still resort to open defecation.

mdgimageBetween 1990 and 2012, almost 2 billion additional people gained access to an improved sanitation facility, one that separates people from faeces hygienically. Despite the large increase in sanitation coverage, from 49 per cent in 1990  o 64 per cent in 2012, it seems unlikely that the MDG target of 75 per cent coverage will be met by 2015. In 2012, 2.5 billion people did not use an improved sanitation facility. Much greater effort and investment will be needed to redress inadequate sanitation practices in the coming years.

In 2012, 1 billion people still resorted to open defecation, a practice that needs to be brought to an end, as it poses a huge risk to communities that are often poor and vulnerable already. Open defecation is most prevalent in Southern Asia, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority-82 per cent of people practicing open defecation now live in middle-income, populous
countries, such as India and Nigeria.

Read the full 2014 MDG report

Open Defecation