Why poor sanitation is a women’s issue
Women are particularly vulnerable due to lack of toilets. Improving sanitation could improve the way of life for 1.25 billion women. According to UNICEF, “1 in 3 women lack access to safe toilets.” Poor Sanitation has significant impacts on safety and education for women. Girls’ lack of access to a lean and safe toilet, especially during menstruation, “perpetuates risk, shame and fear” (WaterAid). Lack of toilets plays a key role in young girls as they begin to face changing bodies. Lack of privacy and adequate facilities can affect a girls education and health.
We Can’t Wait.
- 1 in 3 women worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment, and even attack because they lack a safe toilet
- 526 million women have no choice but to go to the toilet out in the open
- Women and girls living without any toilets spend 97 billion hours each year finding a place to go
- A factory case study in Bangladesh showed that 60% of female workers used rags from the factory floor as menstrual cloths. This resulted in infections that caused 73% of the women workforce missing work for an average of six days a month
Women also face dangers when they are forced to go to the bathroom outside. This means travelling long distances often at night in order to gain privacy through the cover of darkness. This increases the risk of harassment, sexual assault, and even rape.
In attempt to bring this issue into the spotlight, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and Panos Pictures traveled to 20 countries documenting women and girls and their toilet. Their hope was to build “a visual representation of the day-to-day reality and the effect this has on their lives, both positive and negative.”
One woman named Katra Shananji from India, walks almost 6 kilometers every day to go to the toilet in the fields. Katra shares that in May 2014 two girls from her town left home to visit a nearby field to use the toilet and were found dead the next day. They had been raped and were hanging from a tree.
Women in developing countries dream of the benefits that are associated with toilets. For women, toilets equal safety, dignity, employment, and education. We can’t wait.