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

(The News Pakistan Op-ed): Out in the Open

By Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. Originally published in The News Pakistan

This week I attended the Pakistan Conference on Sanitation, PACOSAN II, which took place in Islamabad. Among the many interesting issues raised, one stood out as a serious problem for communities within Pakistan. I am talking about the problem of open defecation.

It is not a pleasant subject and nobody really likes to talk about it. However, it needs to be addressed because children suffer and die from it in Pakistan every day.

Too many people throughout the country do not have proper toilets. They are forced to relieve themselves under the open sky, and involuntarily cause a major public health problem.

Let me tell you a story from my childhood. When I was growing up in Delhi, we lived in a middle class neighbourhood that bordered a poorer community of cow herders and dairy farmers. Faeces on the ground and open drains were part and parcel of my environment, even though we had a toilet in my home and I lived in a modern neighbourhood. My mother constantly nagged me not to run barefoot on the streets. However, playing pithoo required me to run fast, especially to defeat the boys, and running fast was not possible in rubber slippers. I would kick them off and run barefoot on the street, picking up the ball from open drains if necessary, and sometimes accidentally stepping in the human waste that lay on the street.

I constantly suffered from intestinal worms and parasites that robbed me of the nutrition that my parents so carefully invested in for their children. It was a source of constant worry for my mother that I was painfully thin and looked malnourished. She took my condition very personally, but could do very little to control it, because of the environment in which we lived. Continue reading

New York Times Opinionator: In India, Latrines Are Truly Lifesavers

By Vivekananda Nemana and Ankita Rao. Originally published in the New York Times Opinionator

Chandramani Jani in front of a public awareness mural about toilets and sanitation by her home in Chakarliguda. Credit Vivekananda Nemana

Chandramani Jani in front of a public awareness mural about toilets and sanitation by her home in Chakarliguda. Credit Vivekananda Nemana

The mural on the wall outside of Chandramani Jani’s home is more message than art. It depicts a sari-clad woman relieving herself behind a bush, looking worried as a man advances. A large thought bubble suggests the woman wishes for a toilet of her own, clean and complete with the privacy of a door.

To Jani, a 34-year-old sarpanch, or elected village head, in the hilly Koraput district of India’s Odisha  state, the mural represents a personal mission. She boasts that ever since she had toilets built in her village of Chakarliguda last December, no one in her community defecates outside. A few steps behind every home in the village, well-maintained latrines stand amid kitchen gardens and chicken coops.

“Before we had toilets people used to search for a place to squat. Now it’s easy access,”she said. A few elderly women were hesitant to use the new toilets at first, “but now even they’ve gotten used to the comfort.” Continue reading

(Devex Op-ed): How to eliminate open defecation by 2030

By Junaid Ahmad. Originally published on Devex

Residents in Mymensingh, Bangladesh participate in a mobile sanitation project. Photo by: Ashley Wheaton / SuSanA Secretariat / CC BY

Residents in Mymensingh, Bangladesh participate in a mobile sanitation project. Photo by: Ashley Wheaton / SuSanA Secretariat / CC BY

I have enormous pride in what my own country, Bangladesh, has been able to achieve in virtually eliminating open defecation over the last two decades, and often ask myself why other countries haven’t achieved the same. Even today, 1 billion people still practice open defecation around the world.

The challenge to eliminate this practice by 2030 is not trivial. The good news is we now know what it takes and that’s why I’m optimistic this goal is feasible.

Political will

Over half of the people practicing open defecation live in India, and while there have been marginal reductions over the last 10 years there, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is now prioritizing this issue and elevating cleanliness and sanitation as a national development priority. Such political will at the highest level is absolutely fundamental, as demonstrated by other countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Once political will is harnessed, the path to eradicating open defecation falls within the line of sight. Continue reading

(Devex Op-ed) UN Deputy Secretary-General: Sanitation for all- The MDGs and beyond

By the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. Originally published on Devex

New toilets in Abidjian, Ivory Coast. There is still 2.5 billion people that have no access to a decent toilet or latrine. Photo by: Patricia Esteve / United Nations

New toilets in Abidjian, Ivory Coast. There is still 2.5 billion people that have no access to a decent toilet or latrine. Photo by: Patricia Esteve / United Nations

There has been significant progress over the last twenty years by governments, global citizens and the private sector in tackling the main obstacles to sustainable development: poverty and disease.

The Millennium Development Goals have shown us what can be achieved with successfully applied targeted financial policies and human ingenuity to many entrenched global challenges.

Millions of people have been lifted from extreme poverty and hunger. In the fight against malaria, an estimated 3.3 million deaths were averted between 2000 and 2012. Antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infected people has saved 6.6 million lives since 1995. Maternal mortality has fallen by 45 per cent since 1990. Some 2.3 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, collectively helping the world to meet that MDG target in the process.

These are important achievements in their own right which will also inform the priorities to be set for the post-2015 development agenda.

We must also address emerging and worsening challenges. With climate change and rising food needs there are greater demands on energy and water. Not only is there greater water scarcity, but pollution is also increasing.

We cannot afford to delay our response to these looming crises. While billions of people have seen improved sanitation since 1990, the world is still likely to miss the MDG sanitation target by over half a billion people. The time has come for a paradigm shift in the way we manage our water resources. Continue reading

Hindustan Times (Analysis): To stop open defecation go the Pulse Polio way

Source: Diane Coffey & Dean Spears, Hindustan Times

Open defecation is killing children, stunting growth, and holding India back from a more developed future.

In March, India was declared polio-free. There is now an even greater scourge that India must battle: Open defecation. It kills more infants each year than those who became sick with polio each year in the 1980s, when polio was much more common. If open defecation is so much worse than polio, why have we not yet had a campaign to address the problem? This is because our leaders mistakenly think that open defecation is a problem of infrastructure — one that can be solved by building toilets.

Continue reading

Open Democracy: The everywhere of sanitation- violence, oppression and the body

Source: Colin McFarlane, Open Democracy

Farm hands from dalit communities walk through a mustard field in Uttar PradeshDemotix/Arindam Mukherjee

Farm hands from dalit communities walk through a mustard field in Uttar PradeshDemotix/Arindam Mukherjee

“Sanitation is not a development target. It is more than this.”

New Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had nothing to say on the attacks in Uttar Pradesh, but a debate has emerged in India about how a rich country can lag so dangerously far behind its competitors in providing basic safe and clean sanitation.

It is difficult to imagine a more profound illustration of the necessity of sanitation to life itself: two teenage girls venturing into the fields at night, brutally raped, killed and left to hang from a mango tree. They left their homes because they had no alternative, due to the denial of adequate sanitation, but to answer the call of nature by use of a nearby field.  Continue reading

Dos niñas mueren buscando un inodoro. Esto debería enfadarnos, no incomodarnos.

Eso es una traducción de una noticia que fué publicada originalmente en The Guardian.

Los ataques a niñas y mujeres mientras buscan un lugar apartado para defecar son alarmantemente comunes. Mejorar el saneamiento básico,como objetivo global, también mejoraría mucho la seguridad de las mujeres.

“Ve al árbol de mango, el cuerpo de tu hija está ahí”

Dos adolecentes han sido violadas y asesinadas después de hacer lo que medio billón de mujeres y niñas están obligadas a hacer cada día- salir al aire libre para intentar encontrar un lugar discreto para defecar al aire libre.

Un inodoro, un baño, un aseo- como quieras llamarlo- en casa, en el colegio, en el trabajo, en el centro comercial, es algo que muchos de nosotros damos por hecho, no podemos hablar sin sentirnos avergonzados. Pero debermos hacerlo, porque la falta de inodoros está costándoles la vida a las mujeres. Continue reading

arstechnica: Open defecation solves the child mortality puzzle among Indian Muslims

By Akshat Rathi. Originally published on arstechnica and Scroll

Child mortality is lower among Muslims despite being poorer and less educated

Meena Kadri

Meena Kadri

In India, Hindus are, on average, richer and more educated than Muslims. But oddly, Hindus’ child mortality rate is much higher. All observable factors say Hindus should fare better, but they don’t. Economists refer to this as the Muslim mortality puzzle.

In a new study, researchers believe that they may have found a solution to the puzzle. And, surprisingly, the solution lies in a single factor referred to as “a particular sanitation externality”—open defecation. Continue reading

Niti Central: Narendra Modi’s sanitation drive makes economic sense

By Dean Spears, Visiting economist at the Delhi School of Economics. Originally published on Niti Central

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set an ambitious and worthy goal: The elimination of open defecation in India by 2019. Some commentators are worried that this may be unrealistic and challenging promise. However, as an economist who studies Indian policy, I am persuaded by evidence that Modi’s priority is correct: Tackling open defecation in India is possible and makes economic sense.

Most people in India defecate in the open, without using a toilet or latrine. To Indians accustomed to seeing fellow citizens ‘going to the field’, open defecation may just seem like a fact of life in a developing economy.

It is not. Widespread open defecation is a problem increasingly concentrated in India alone. Most people in other developing countries use latrines or toilets. Open defecation has been essentially eliminated from China. Only a smaller fraction of people in Pakistan and a tiny fraction in Bangladesh defecate in the open. Most strikingly, open defecation rates are, on average, much lower even in poor sub-Saharan Africa than in India. Continue reading