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Right To A Toilet : A question of women's health, safety and dignity

Today is World Toilet Day. In 2001 the World Toilet Organization ( WTO) declared its founding day, 19th November, as World Toilet Day. According to the organization, World Toilet Day was created to raise "global awareness of the struggle of 2.6 billion face every day without access to proper, clean sanitation". This day raises alarm on global sanitation crisis and urges both behavior and policy changes on issues ranging from effective water management to ending open air defecation.

In July 2012, Our Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation termed India - the world's capital for open defecation. More than half of our population and 70 % of women lack access to a toilet. As a result, girls and women from urban and rural slums are forced to practice open defecation leaving them vulnerable to sexual harassment, humiliation and even rape. In addition to the security issue, women face hazardous health risks which contribute to diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

In India's capital, New Delhi, the problem is worse with a staggering 56% of children living in slums and unauthorized colonies defecating in the open due to lack of community toilets. With nowhere to go, young girls and women are forced to use unhygienic and unsafe facilities like open fields increasing their vulnerability to violence. Due to the entrenched cultural norms that devalue women and deny them a voice, the authorities have been able to turn a blind eye to their complaints of sexual violence. This lack of support often discourages women from reporting such incidents to the police or authority, especially when the shame of experiencing violence is coupled with the indignity of the incident happening while going to the toilet.

There is an urgent need to raise awareness regarding this under reported issue, of the role of toilets in reducing the risk of violence against women. The challenge is to motivate and pressurize the local authorities to provide safe sanitation facilities for all especially for low income households living in the slums.

Recently, on my visit to one of the urban slums of West Delhi, I interviewed few women to find out for myself how lack of toilets is affecting them both physically and psychologically. I decided to make a short video slide on this to draw attention to an extremely important yet under reported issue in India. My video is intended to motivate dialogue and discussions among the communities and force the local authorities to take effective action and offer suggestions for women to demand their right to safe and secure sanitation.

Watch my VIDEO Link here : Right To A Toilet : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70YcCIRXFvc&feature=youtu.be

Comments

Vweta's picture

Alarming!!!

56% is alarming as it is, even though I suspect that the reality on ground is higher.

I enjoyed watching the slide, painted a vivid picture of the situation on ground, especially with Krishna and her daughter finally deciding to speak out about the dangers they are exposed to everytime they have to defecate.

Welldone for this dear Mukut!

Our Voices make the WORLD PULSate...
Vweta.

Mukut's picture

Yess!

The figures are alarming and the condition worse. There are scores of such communities/ slums in Delhi and other areas where there is no toilet or any kind of sanitation facility at all. The open fields are filled with filth and waste which are the main agents for spreading diseases. This is an extremely important issue which needs urgent, effective action from the authorities. Krishna told me that every year politicians visit their place asking for votes, look at the filth and listen to their problems and promise to change everything but nothing happens once they leave.False promises.

I feel along with the community members, if we can find the support of NGOs /organizations to pressurize the authorities, then that would be great. But the numbers are just too big. We need to start now.

Thanks so much for writing in.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Y's picture

Len Foote Hike Inn, 280

Len Foote Hike Inn, 280 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd, Dawsonville, GA 30534 http://hike-inn.com/ has composting toilets that vistors have told me are even more pleasant than indoor toilets. They require no running water, no sewer system, and the resulting product can be used as fertilizer.

They seem so simple that women could build themselves instead of demanding "the local authorities to take effective action."

On a humorous note, a male rural Appalachian friend whose books I published, lives by choice, in a very primitive manner. He has only solar power (acquired within the last two years that powers only one LCD light bulb), having typed his stories on a manual typewriter, to the light of kerosene lamps. He has no indoor plumbing, preferring to collect rainwater for cleaning and walk 200 feet each way to dip drinking water out of a fresh-water mountain stream. He has an outhouse (enclosed outdoor "toilet," consisting of four rough wooden walls, a door, and a roof enclosing a hole in the ground over which a bench with a hole for sitting is placed. (This is very close to a fresh-water stream, which is probably against modern sanitation regulations, but it only the waste coming from one man.)

Through his writing, he has obtained a lady-love. I tease him that, if he ever decides to marry her, he may have to build an indoor toilet. I have promised that if the weddings day comes with no toilet in his home, I will give her a beautiful porcelain "chamber pot" (a handled bowl with a cover used as a bedside toilet) filled with fresh flowers to carry as her bouquet.

Blessings to you, Mukut.

Yvette

Sorry Y,

I don't see anything humorous about this or anything appropriate in talking about a teasing event. or thought.

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Y's picture

I'm sorry this offends you,

I'm sorry this offends you, Wendy, but I handle all crisis with both laughter and tears, as did my Cajun grandmother.

My Appalachian friend chooses to continue to live in this very primitive manner. More modern services are offered to him. In fact, the longest TVA run of electric grid hook-up wire in the system runs directly over his house. He says that his life in this manner was good when he was a child, and he sees no reason to change it. The "magic" of many of my Appalachian mountain friends is that they don't lust for what they don't need. BTW, I spent a year translating and editing his Apppalchian dialect and manual typewriter text into publishable print and designing and publishing his worthy work.

We moved from there because my husband's heart transplant before our home was washed away from the coast of Louisiana by Hurricane Katrina necessitated more specialized care than was available in the rural Appalachian area. This move back to Louisiana also enabled him to continue with his full-time volunteer work in Louisiana that he was attempting to accomplish by internet in rural Appalachia.

You are welcome to contact me if you would like to come visit me in Our Tennessee Mountain Home and meet some of the people who have "adopted" us as their own. You may also purchase either of my love stories to their ways of life at Amazon.com, or read of our adventures there at TnMtnHome.blogspot.com.

I did offer very affordable and empowering option for solving the problem of toilet facilities in India and other less-developed countries in my comment. I believe in giving to current victims the information to obtain resources for empowerment.

Blessings to you.

Yvette

Wendyiscalm's picture

Clarification

Hi Y,

I wasn't offended. I was dismayed.

Ubuntu,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Mukut's picture

Ubuntu Y

Thanks Y ! You are always sweet. I quite like the concept of Len Foote Hike Inn. Building something of our own so that we don't have to depend on others for such a basic need. Innovation is the key!

Thanks for sharing. Lots of love to you.

Mukut Ray

Y's picture

LOVE back at you, Mukut!

LOVE back at you, Mukut!

Yvette

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

thank you

Than you for posting this brilliant article. We take so many things for granted in the US, one of them being access to a toilette. It is horrifying to me the statistics that you quote. 70% of women don't have access to sanitation facilities? Think how that must affect not only them, but their children! Thank you for bringing attention to this critical issue.

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Mukut's picture

Thank you Rachael!

Thank you for writing in. The figures are alarming indeed. Young girls practice extreme bladder control to avoid going to the fields at night. The community / public toilets are in shambles and shut in the evening and the politicians who make it a point to visit these slums every year asking for their votes and promising great things in return, do nothing once they win.

The situation is extremely grim and disheartening. But thanks to World Pulse, I am able to bring attention to such an important issue to a wider audience.

Thank you for your feedback.

Love and hugs,

Mukut Ray

Wendyiscalm's picture

Love the quote

Rachel, HI !

I don't know you but I love the quote by Brezny. His words are the reason I work in developing country Livingstone Zambia with street orphans and vulnerable children when so many people ask me - "Why?".

Have a nice day.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Wendyiscalm's picture

Mukut, Oh, I don't even know

Mukut,

Oh, I don't even know what to say. The video, the article - all of it - are SOOOOOOO extreme and it all makes me feel ashamed that I am not doing more. I ache for the women. I ache for all of it. This to me is beyond horrific. And I am so moved by your words and pictures that I know if I do not do something in some way about this I am missing the point and your deep commitment to reach out for help.

So, while this minute I cannot make change, I am going to email this to ALL the women and men I know and have on my email and beg them to at least read it. I know this is not much.

Please keep us aware of this so those of us who really care will do SOMETHING, even a little something, to move towards change.

I cannot tell you how upset I am about this. I did not know. THANK YOU, MUKUT.
Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Mukut's picture

Wendy, my sweetest sister

Ubuntu Wendy ( BTW I love this word " Ubuntu'). Thanks for introducing me to it. Yes, the situation is extremely sad. But there is no instant magic pill I believe that will transform India's current sanitary position overnight. It is a long, hard battle ahead of us where community and political leaders have to come together to think of innovative solutions. Both men and women suffer due to unhygienic sanitary conditions, but women suffer more as it affects their dignity and increases their chances of vulnerability.

Thank you for your support. You are so special !

Lots of love,
Ubuntu

Mukut Ray

Wendyiscalm's picture

Hi Mukut, Thanks for your

Hi Mukut,

Thanks for your response. Your article lingers with me in my gut, with sadness. Even for two days now. Sometimes it is good to feel suffering, pain and sadness because it reminds us to ask ourselves the question "Am I doing enough? - Or at least am I doing something?" Another's pain introduces us to ourselves, who we are by how we feel and what we do.

Thank you

Ubuntu, Mukut,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

jacollura's picture

Thank you for this post.

Mukut,
Thank you for writing and making the slide video to raise awareness of this issue. I support the women in their demand for access to safe sanitation.
In peace and love,
Julie

Mukut's picture

Thank you !

Thank you for taking the time to reply. Thank you for your support.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

Great work, Mukut!

Thank you for remembering the 1 in 3 women, globally, who lack access to safe toilet facilities. I feel so proud of you for sharing about such an ignored but very important issue, and going an extra mile to beam the reality through your photo slide.

What you shared about the situation in India is not far from what happens in my country. To get a glimpse of the situation in my country, you may want to see a post I shared last year's World Toilet Day. Here's the link: http://worldpulse.com/node/61531

I hope the authorities are listening!

In Solidarity,
Greengirl

Mukut's picture

Thanks Greengirl

Thanks so much ! Will go through your post.

Love,

Mukut Ray

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