World Toilet Day brings issues home for global rural women & children

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Slum toilet outside of New Delhi, India
A public slum toilet approximately 8 miles outside of New Delhi, India shows why women prefer not to use the facilities. Instead numerous women defecate in hidden outside areas, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Image: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: When you step into your bathroom today and sit on your own home toilet don’t take it for granted. November 19 was World Toilet Day, a day that is now for the first time officially recognized by the United Nations each year as a day to highlight the need for clean sanitation and waste management, as well as clean running water and clean drinking water access worldwide.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that one of the key ingredients to a modern working lavatory or toilet is its running water. Without water human waste cannot be properly moved to a treatment plant or facility. Without water hands cannot be washed and proper sanitation hygiene is broken. It doesn’t take much to realize that disease and contagion can become rampant without toilets.

The history of World Toilet Day began in 2001 when Singapore, Thailand based water sanitation and waste management hero Jack Sim brought the issues of toilets and the desperate need for toilet access to the attention of the public. According to the organization Sim founded in 2001, the World Toilet Organization, “700,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s almost 2,000 children a day.”

“The ‘silent’ sanitation crisis is a ticking time bomb which affects billions of people around the world. When the World Toilet Organization was founded in 2001, the subject of sanitation received little media attention and it was severely neglected on the global development agenda,” outlines the World Toilet Organization.

Rural India, among many other rural areas worldwide, also continues today to be besieged by toilet shortages, toilets with substandard conditions and open defecation.

Open defecation in India, and worldwide, is especially dangerous for children as well as their mothers. With little access to clean running water disease and death can be the outcome.

“With 638 million people defecating in the open and 44 per cent mothers disposing their children’s faeces in the open, there is a very high risk of microbial contamination (bacteria, viruses, amoeba) of water which causes diarrhoea in children,” says UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund in India.

“…diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, respiratory infections, skin and eye infections…are all likely to occur when water supplies and sanitation services are disrupted,” outlines UNICEF.

Worldwide over 3,000 children die daily from contact with contagions, with numerous deaths connected to the non-availability of clean toilet facilities.

“Open defecation is still practised by an estimated 1.1 billion people, mainly in rural areas in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa;t elimination of this practice is an essential step towards reducing child mortality from disease. Growing global recognition of the right to water (for personal and domestic use) and to sanitation will have increasingly important implications for programmes that have the potential to significantly reduce child mortality,” adds UNICEF in a 2012 report on child mortality.

To understand the ongoing problem more clearly, we can ask the important question: “Why are toilets, clean bathroom facilities and clean running water not available in so many regions worldwide?”

The answer is simple – poverty. Poverty has been blocking many of the good programs ready to go and working today to stop the plight in sanitation that can save 2.5 billion lives on-the-ground that do not have access to adequate sanitation.

Private toilets are especially important for women who can face dangers from attackers, dogs, snakes and insects as they search, sometimes far away from their home, for private and safe place to ‘go to the bathroom’ during the day or night.

As the 12th anniversary recognition of World Toilet Day passes make sure you appreciate your own private toilet facilities, if you have one. If not start working now any way you can to get your own private toilet.

And if you are inspired to do something, don’t hesitate to jump into this special world of toilet advocacy.

For more information on this topic:

We Can’t Wait: A Report on Sanitation and Hygiene for Women and Girls,” World Toilet Organization with writing partners Unilever Domestos, WaterAid and the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), October 30, 2013.


It may seem strange to say, but a new toilet can be a source of almost unlimited joy for women like India-based mother Ms. Kasan Bai; not only does the new toilet mean safety for her and her daughters, it also means as she describes, “a joyous marriage for her son” as more women in rural India are now demanding that before they marry a prospective husband provide them with a private toilet to use. This .50 min May 2012 video is a video production of


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