I have not sat on a toilet in the same way since I visited Mozambique with WaterAid.
We all do it everyday: lock ourselves in a private room, sit on a white ceramic object, and do our business. I thought that was completely normal. I didn’t give it a second thought.
It’s one of those things we do on auto-pilot. I don’t look at the toilet and think that’s a really strange-shaped weird contraption. Or consider for a moment where the waste is being flushed away to. Or think, this is why I am not at risk from cholera, diarrhoea and have a life expectancy of 80+ years. And I work in the water industry.
That locked room or cubicle, that white ceramic flushing toilet, I now see as the ultimate privilege. They are not standard. This is not the norm. This is like owning a Rolls Royce in the toilet world.
1 in 3 people in the world do not have access to a safe, private toilet.
I think before I thought, ‘ok, there are different ways of doing things, don’t impose your Western views and norms Sally, there are other ways of going to the toilet’. I didn’t really imagine fully what life without toilets would be like.
Then I met Robina in Mozambique, who at the age of 76 had never had access to a toilet. She was not that mobile. If she needed to so her business, she had to find somewhere in the bush around her home to go.
So imagine where you work or live. Imagine everyone there has no toilet; not just you. Imagine when you want to go that you need to try to find somewhere hidden. But your neighbours and colleagues are looking too. And people have already been. And no one removes the business that’s been done. So it’s everywhere. And wherever you’ve found to go, there’s not going to be a tap and soap there for you to wash your hands, is there?
Now I realise this is about having a choice. 1 in 3 people in the world are forced to defecate in the open because they have no choice. They have no toilet to use to keep them safe from disease, to allow them to go in private, and to preserve their dignity.
This is what some toilets looked like in Mozambique.
Not all toilets are clean, white and ceramic and found in a lockable cubicle. This is part of the reason why over 4,200 children under five die because of preventable diarrhoeal diseases and life expectancy in Mozambique is just 50 years.
This is why I have not sat on a toilet in the same way. I catch myself actually thinking about that toilet. What a weird, but life-saving object it is. And how lucky I am to be in a locked room using it.
We helped to build a latrine for Robina. This was her first ever toilet. At the age of 76, for the first time, she will no longer have to defecate in the open around her and her neighbours’ homes. Last year WaterAid helped over three million people, like Robina, gain access to a safe, clean and private toilet – that’s almost 350 people an hour!
Toilets are a serious issue that can be hard to talk about. But this World Toilet Day I really want to get as many people as I can talking about toilets. That’s why John, Nelson and I have been painting toilets gold ready for World Toilet Day, this Saturday 19th November.
At Southern Water we are trying to get 2030 #SanitationSelfies to highlight WaterAid’s work to get everyone everywhere access to a toilet by 2030. And we need your help!
A #SanitationSelfie of you in your bathroom or on your toilet will show your support for WaterAid’s work. Follow me on Facebook, or @SouthernWater on Facebook or Twitter to check out the #SanitationSelfies and support WaterAid. Post your #SanitationSelfie and nominate your friends!
Demo #SanitationSelfie coming soon …