This years World Toilet Day focusing on “Gender Equality and Dignity” is coming at no better time than now. Each month between two and seven days, adding up to around 3000 days of menstruation in an average woman’s lifetime. However in many places, menstruation is a taboo subject and many negative cultural attitudes are associated with it, including the idea that menstruating women and girls are ‘contaminated’, ‘dirty’ and ‘impure’.
This is particularly rampant in rural areas, where access to affordable and hygienic sanitary materials are limited. Women and girls resort to the usage of old cloths or rags and foam materials. Institutional facilities are most often designed without regard to menstrual hygiene needs. For example, most of the schools in Nigeria either public or private are without private space and washrooms for girls and where there exist, there are shared with boys, inappropriate, no water and with no facilities for disposal of used pads and unclean.
Women and Girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilets that offers privacy. Menstruation is not properly managed because of lack of Toilet and Sanitation facilities. Having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity.
Where toilets exist, inequalities are present because of inadequate concern for persons with special needs and the elderly including children. Without accessible toilets, these vulnerable groups remain excluded from opportunities to attend school and gain employment.
As we observed this year’s World Toilet Day celebration tagged “ Gender Equality and Dignity”, there are a lot of questions that deserves consideration:
- Can you imagine a community not having toilets? Can you also imagine your wife or daughter menstruating but without adequate sanitary facilities or privacy? Where they exist are they inclusive for all users? Are households taking adequate consideration before constructing a toilet?
- Have you ever thought about the true meaning of dignity especially for your girl child, sister, mother and wife?
- What actions are we taking as government, individuals, organizations, communities etc.?
As we celebrate this year’s World Toilet Day;
- We applaud the Federal Ministry of Water Resources for empowering rural women and girls through her project on growing women and girls initiatives in four states of the federation, but wish to state the need for the upscaling of this project beyond the four states and more attention on the issue of sanitation and hygiene which is also an economic resource.
- Government – to take appropriate measures in ensuring adequate budgetary allocation to sanitation and hygiene
- We call on all other stakeholders, CSOs, traditional and religious leaders to join the world to campaign for action to raise the awareness for safe toilets for all and to put an end to Open Defecation.
- We call on the International Communities, donor’s agencies and all development partners in WASH to mainstream menstrual hygiene in the plans and programs including budgetary allocations.
- The need for a gender-disaggregated data in WASH is even more critical now and therefore calls for funding and technical support from all stakeholders to make this happen in Nigeria. Your support will bring an up-to-date data on Gender and WASH, which will be used for policy formulation, advocacy and awareness, and to support capacity building and social enterprise sanitation projects in Nigeria.
Priscilla M Achakpa- Ashoka Fellow
Executive Director, Women Environmental Programme
National Coordinator, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) Nigeria