Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A BIG SQUAT To Take A Stand On Sanitation


Jack Sim, Founder, WTO, plans to get people to squat together in public places to raise awareness about sanitation.

The 52 year old former businessman says, "WTO is an advocacy group. We don't actually build toilets. We partner with organizations across the world and share knowledge and experience".

He says many people have TVs and mobile phones but no toilets. "It's about prioritising sanitation; 40% of the world has no access to proper toilets. Sanitation is about making people aware of the relationship between hygiene and health," he says.

WTO which has over 200 partners worldwide, 42 of which are in India is one of the few organisations that focuses only on sanitation and toilets instead of water. "Everyone clubs water and sanitation, and 95% of the funds go towards water projects. But good sanitation is the first step towards clean water," he says.

Toilets weren't really top of the pot for Sim, who ran a number of businesses from the age of 25. "When I turned 40, I realised that I had 13,000 more days to live the average Singaporean lives to 80 and wanted to do something useful," he says. Sim started reading and "realised that the toilet is really neglected". So he started "the other WTO" in 2001 to disseminate serious facts with a sense of humour. The logo is a toilet seat shaped like a heart.

"I thought the best way to break the toilet taboo was to use lots of puns." But the name, which everyone thinks is "really bad at first" sticks in people's minds. "That's because every mother has told her child not to talk about the toilet. It's not polite'. And here we are talking about the loo quite freely," says Sim, who is often called Toilet Man.
And it's not just about getting toilets installed. "You have to keep them clean too. So Sim has started the World Toilet College in Singapore that provides training in toilet maintenance and design. "I'm hoping we can open one in India too to train toilet cleaners like technicians."

This year, for World Toilet Day, WTO is planning a Big Squat. "We're getting people all over the world to squat together in public places and take a picture. It's a fun way to get the message across and make people laugh," he says. World Toilet Day, according to him, provides the legitimacy for people to talk about toilets openly. "Toilets are like sex, everyone wants to discuss it, but is waiting for someone else to break the taboo."
TIMES has an article about Jack Sim and Rose George, who are involved in this project.
In a city like Chennai, where the climate is hot nearly 10 months of the year, I see men urinating on the roadside all the time. When women can control and go home and relieve themselves, why can't men do so, I don't know. So, first of all people should be fined heavily for doing this crime (yes, it is crime) on the spot. I have seen them doing this on the wall of the public toilets! In Srirangam, I saw them urinating on the compound wall of the temple even though every street surrounding the temple had toilets, which were clean, but pay toilets! The whole area was stinking. Like Sim, we need somebody to teach people to use toilets to relieve themselves instead of doing it in public without shame (even after the mothers teach them not to talk about toilets/not to show their private parts in public!). Will education help to change this attitude about polluting the environment, but I see even educated people do this...So, our city will have very minimum people who will participate in this 'BIG SQUAT' sincerely!

Edited to add (12.11.09): Useful link - Sanitation updates 


Swaram said...

Oh Sandhya! U really touched a topic which I have always wanted to blog abt! Urinating and spitting wherever they want is so ridiculous.
During my mrng walk, I saw a man urinating in a part of the park which is used as a nursery! I shouted back and asked him to use the toilet which ws provided in every corner of the park, when another man who passed by tells me to leave him since he ws aged!!!! The toilet ws very close by. Hw sad na :(

I see men urinating on the roadside all the time. When women can control and go home and relieve themselves, why can't men do so Pls do let me know if and when u understand Sandhya :P

Its so nice to see there are such initiatives. Thanks for sharing :)

I sometimes feel pics of men who do this should be clicked and they should be humiliated by putting it up in papers :P

Hd u read this one before ;)

wordsndreamz said...

You have picked up such an important topic! We certainly need toilet awareness in India! As you say, men especially think that every wall is a urinal!

And cleaning and maintaining toilets are equally important! Forget about public toilets - even some homes have the dirtiest ever toilets! You feel sick just looking!

Initiatives like this will make a difference in the long run. As you say, we need some sort of measure to ensure that nobody treats walls and public places like toilets!

Sandhya said...

Swaram: The link you have sent is very good. This is a good idea. I have seen photos of gods on some compound walls to stop people from urinating, but no use!

Old people deserve respect, but in some things, youngsters can advise them, I feel.

Sandhya said...

wordsndreamz: As you said, most of the people think that cleaning their own toilet seats is dirty work. I have never let my servant maid do that work. I am very particular about cleaning it myself.

Most of the people just do not bother to flush or pour water after using toilets, here. Nowadays, we have got beautiful highway toilets on the roads, esp. in Tamilnadu. But when we go inside, most of the toilets stink. When people haven't got personal hygiene, no one can help - even Jack Sim.

Destination Infinity said...

The biggest problem with public toilets is the lack of cleanliness (the free ones). Paid toilets are slightly better. But as you said, we need to make people aware that cleaning ones toilet regularly is very important.

Destination Infinity

manju said...

I think this is a very important issue. And an interesting awareness campaign by the WTO!

Even when there are public toilets available, people relieve themselves in public- such a sad state of affairs!

There are some initiatives like the 'Sulabh Shouchalaya' which should be implemented in more places with the participation of corporates.

Aparna said...

Indian men are pathetic. Even people driving big cars stop the vehicle somewhere on the road and pee. It is disgusting. And no one bothers to stop this abominable behaviour. But I also condemn the mothers who seem to have encouraged this kind of behaviour. They constantly teach the girls to be modest but see no harm in encouraging their boys to urinate in public when they are small.
We really need awareness on this issue and people should realise how shameful all this looks to a foreigner, or even to an Indian with sensibilities.

kanagu said...

we are still doesn't care about public health na... The day all the people thinks that streets and roads too are like floor in their home.. this will be resolved...

its really ridiculous that many spitting, urinating, throwing grabages in roads just like that and its an irritating behaviour...

kanagu said...

Just read the other 2 missed posts...

I have heard that the firaaq movie is good but I rarely watch the hindi films as I don't know hindi much...
this movie seems to be good and like to watch that.. thats a nice post..

but I have no idea about the serial you have mentioned... :(

Sandhya said...

Destination Infinity: Paid toilets are a bit cleaner because the caretaken cleans it often. The people who use them don't bother to pour water or even flush, after use. Who can teach people this basic hygiene?

I really admire Jack Sim for taking up this important issue to the public. But we need to learn from A then B, C, and D steps. So more Jack Sims are needed!

Manju: We have seen the 'shulabh shouchaalaya' in Pune, when we came there on a tour. The place was looking so clean and never looked like a rest room at all, with potted plants etc. I remember to have read that they are maintained by some corporates. As you said, other states can follow this method.

Aparna: Your point about mothers differenciating in teaching about modesty for girls and boys is very right, Aparna. Hope this will change gradually.

kanagu: Our own people, when in abroad follow their rules properly. But as soon as they enter our airport, start throwing plastics and other garbage wherever they want, never bothering about looking for a dustbin.

I wonder if these people keep their toilets at home clean because of the myth that toilet is a dirty place and can be like one always - no need to clean.

Watch the movie with sub-titles. It is worth it, kanagu.

Serials?! You were not born when they came in DD, kozhanthe!!

radha said...

A real need of the hour. Sulabh has tried this concept in India, but I am not sure of how successful they are. And true, if a woman can wait, why can't the man? Don't they claim to be the stronger of the two?

SG said...

Toilet is not a bad word. There is a lightly scented perfume called Toilet Water.

On a serious note, there are no decent public toilets in India except a few departmental stores. You said men are doing in the street and women are holding until they get home. Why don't we demand from the people who govern us to build decent toilets all over the country.

In USA, every gas station (petrol bunk) has decent bathrooms for men and women. At least, the government can order these petrol bunks to maintain such facility.

What is the point in making speeches like "we will be a super power in 2020" and "we will send a person to the moon" when the government cannot arrange decent toilets for its citizens.

Varunavi said...

Once when i went to hyd for vacation,varu saw a person urinating and she asked me --this uncle don't have washroom in his house?.Here each petrol pump has washrooms and they are clean.

I remember one program on MTV where cyrus went to the people who were urinating and that was recorded and shown on tv and he asked them why they are urinating on the walls? Most of them ran from there and i am sure in their life they wont repeat that again.

People should be fined for urinating on the walls,but that also leads to another bribe case.

Sandhya said...

Radha: I have seen Sulabh toilets and they are maintained well. But still they are in very limited numbers and don't know if it is in South India.

You are right Radha!!

SG: Yes, I too feel why the govt. is not taking up this project of building toilets and maintaining it - pay toilets are fine. They can mint money in this project also! But again many people do not know the basic sense of keeping it clean. I have seen pay toilets in sight seeing places. Some petrol bunks do have them. As I said many of the new toilets which are on the new highways also stink. Some personeel should be there to maintain it all the time...that is not easy, you know.

This doesn't mean men can relieve themselves on the roads, SG. This has become so common that they don't wait to go home or office or look for a toilet on the road...some roads have it here too.

Punishment of a hefty fine is the only option.

Varunavi: Many petrol bunks have got toilets now.

MTV prog. is interesting. I think I can ask my husband to carry a video camera with him, hereafter. Maybe if we record some cases, slowly people might be scared of doing it - might worry about somebody recording it!!! I am laughing loudly while writing it, Saritha...very good idea!

Yes, corruption is everywhere ...even in this matter!

lostworld said...

WHat annoys me even more is when I see ppl who are educated and do not give it a second thought before unzipping in public! :X
In Chennai or smplace, I recall they painted the compound walls with Gods & Goddesses in order to put an end to this unhygenic and disgusting public act. Not too sure whether it worked. Knowing Indian mentality, I doubt it had any effect.

Sandhya said...

lostworld: Even I have seen some paintings of gods, where earlier, people were using the place as open toilets. Haven't checked it!

kavita said...

Sandhya...i will tell you few incidents,once we had a guest at home after staying for few days he was going back,his train had late departure time hence we planned to drop him to the station,it was not even ten minutes since we left the house he made us stop the car and ...I was furious,why not take a leak before one leaves the house .Many a times we see people using walls of the very same public urinal.

Not only we need more of public urinals but also a change in attitude too.Its funny but my 3 year old son wanted to pee outside once because he saw someone else doing it...later i explained to him that why it is not alright to do it.

Deepa said...

Hi! I just wandered into your blog from IHM's blog. Hope you won't mind if I make a comment?

I think toilets are an important issue. And not only because of poor toilet training of Indian men. I think its a cultural issue that affects women profoundly.

I have worked a lot in the villages. One of the reasons many girls do not go to school or drop out once they reach puberty, is the absence of toilets in village schools. Now, under SSA they have given funds to build toilets for schools. But many of these toilets do not have water connection or people just don't take care of it.

I think we all need to be socialised in how to use public toilets!!

Nice post - and very hat-ke. I like it! Hope to visit often.

Sandhya said...

Kavita: People I know too behave in this manner. Disgusting.

First I think people should be taught how to use a 'pour water after using it...etc.'

Deepa: Welcome here, Deepa and I am very happy to read your comments here.

I know that most of the villagers do not send their daughters to school after they reach puberty, because it is taboo over there. If this is the reason, they are right, Deepa.

Till some years back, the villages I had visited, had dry toilets. Maybe this is the reason, our people don't have the habit of flushing or pouring water after use. All toilets, whether pay toilet or free ones, are stinking here and I dread to use them, when we go out.

Thanks for reading and commenting here, Deepa!

R. Ramesh said...

S thanks 4 yr continuous encouragement ya..nanri nanri

kavita said...

Sandhya...did you come across that news one day back where abroad they are encouraging people to urinate outside to save water...i saw CAMERON DIAZ's picture and name associated to this news...funny!

Sandhya said...

Kavita: No, I haven't read the news and it is yuck!

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