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On World Toilet Day, Let's Talk About Global Sanitation

While we can all crack a good potty joke on World Toilet Day, we should also take some time to think about the 2.5 billion people worldwide that lack access to adequate sanitation.

November 19 is World Toilet Day. Yes there’s a day to think about toilets, or a lack thereof, around the world.

And while we can all crack a good potty joke today, we should also take some time to think about the 2.5 billion people worldwide that lack access to adequate sanitation.

But what does that really mean?

Imagine what it would be like if there wasn’t a bathroom in your office, your house, or the Starbucks on the corner. Think about how that would affect not only your time but also your health, hygiene, and community environment. This is the reality for more than 2.5 billion people worldwide. And while men face the burden of poor sanitation, women and girls are the real victims, facing additional challenges like shame, disease, harassment and even violence because they have nowhere safe or clean to go to the bathroom.

Consider this:

  • 1.25 billion, or 1 in 3, women and girls around the world are without access to adequate sanitation
  • Diarrhea, caused by a lack of access to clean water and safe toilets, kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria, and measles—combined

The lack of access is an inconvenience and actually impacts all aspects of a girl’s life, including her ability to get an education. Despite this, the sanitation crisis has not taken top priority on the global agenda. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most off-track targets for the Millennium Development Goals.

But we can #ChangeThat—and we must. Increasing access to sanitation in the developing world is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. It gets girls in schools, improves health, and allows women to get jobs—contributing to economic growth within communities.

So what’s the solution?

While it may seem easiest to just throw money at the problem and build lots of toilets, we know this doesn’t work. The developing world is riddled with broken infrastructure, water pumps, and toilets.

At Water For People, the organization where I work, we take a market-based approach to bring lasting access to sanitation facilities. This means that we partner with communities to install toilets and help local entrepreneurs build businesses to empty toilet pits and keep them working. It’s called Sanitation as a Business and it’s effective.

This World Toilet Day, let’s give a shit about all of the people who struggle with poor sanitation. All of the women and girls forced to go out in search of a private place to “go.”

This is a conversation we must have. So on World Toilet Day, join @WaterForPeople, @GOOD, and others for a Twitter chat about the effects of the sanitation crisis on women and girls and the real solutions needed. Join us on November 19 at 12 p.m. EST using #ToiletDay.

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