Yesterday World Toilet Day was recognized to bring global awareness about the millions of people worldwide who do not have access to a toilet. In fact, 40% of the world’s population has to use the bathroom in the open and spends billions of hours searching for a place to relieve themselves.
WaterAid, along with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council recently published a new report, We can’t wait, that shows the effects of low sanitation and hygiene on women and girls. According to the report women and girls are exposed to harrasement, shame, disease, and attacks when they need to use the bathroom. That is what I also heard from a visit to communal toilets (photos below) in New Delhi and Johannesburg. For women and girls going to the bathroom is a harrowing experience.
“One in three [people] lack access to adequate sanitation,” noted UN Deputy-Secretary General, Jan Eliasson and Unilever Chief Executive Officer, Paul Polman in the report. “The result is widespread death and disease and social marginalization. Poor sanitation exposes women and girls to the risk of assault and, when schools cannot provide clean, safe toilets, girls’ attendance drops.”
Communal Toilet in a Slum in New Delhi
Communal Toilets in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg, South Africa
Never underestimate the power of a woman who can earn her own money and provide for her family.
This statement is true everywhere in Africa and other parts of the developing world. One trait that is perpetually apparent when you travel abroad and visit areas in need is people want to work; they want to be able to buy food and pay for their children’s education and health needs. They want to take care of their home and put money away to save like everyone else. Sometimes this is difficult to achieve in developing nations because of rife poverty, war, and lack of economic opportunities. But there are social enterprise models that tap into the creativity, ingenuity, and work ethic of women who craft beautiful clothes, bags, and wares for purchase.
Mend, a program of the Invisible Children, is one of those social enterprise companies that is giving women a chance to earn money and pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. Based in Gulu, Uganda most of the seamstresses are former child soldiers or wives of LRA rebel commanders in Uganda who were in power during the civil war.
“We believe our program is unique in its holistic approach to recovery and commitment to sustainable financial independence for our seamstresses, while creating quality, value-added products that people want to own.”
The seamstresses at Mend make beautiful totes made of printed canvas that are meticulously trimmed with leather. Each canvas bag retails for $75 and the blank canvas bag retails for $65. All proceeds from the sale of the basg goes back into the Mend program where women can work and expand their financial earnings and better earn a living for their families.
What is particularly fascinating about Mend is the women are able to earn money from their work and are benefited from the collective work of them all. Be sure to visit the Mend blog to read more about Mend’s work.
Buy a Mend tote on the Invisible Children web site.
I am consistently amazed by how doing simple things can make a lifetime of difference. This is especially true in areas where poverty is rife and endemic and where disease and death are common. For example, by simply sleeping under a bed net, people can severely lessen their chance of getting malaria. Or, by simply using a toilet, feces-related diseases can be minimalized. The same thing is true for a foot disease called podoconiosis, a form of elephantiasis or swelling of the lower leg triggered by prolonged exposure to irritant minerals in red clay soils (ᔥPodo.org).
This week a new web site, Podo.org, launched to drive awareness of podoconiosis, get help to people – particularly farmers – who have the disease and prevent people from getting the foot disease. Can you believe podoconiosis can be prevented by simply wearing shoes and washing soil from one’s feet? This is so preventable!
Read more to learn what you can do to spread awareness to your network and help people who need shoes and education about the disease to prevent it.
Our partner Water.org will celebrate World Water Day on March 22 along with concerned global citizens of the world who care about access to clean water for everyone on earth.
If you would like to get involved, Water.org has a robust list detailing how you can help spread the word about World Water Day. You can do everything from change your Twitter background to donate $25 to the cause. There is a lot to choose from.
Also visit WorldWaterDay.org to find our more information about the importance of access to clean water and see how you can help. You can also visit UNWater.org for more information.
Photo copyright: Water.org
I am always amazed by how powerful and brave women are around the world. I like to think of myself as someone who believes in the power of social good and the influence that collective digital voices of mothers can impart upon society, but I do all of this from the comfort of my home and from the security that the developed world provides. There are no military coups here in the United States or child soldiers in our midst. I have enough food to eat. My daughters are not in danger of dying from tropical diseases or have to collect firewood so our family can eat and they in turn cannot go to school. I also have the technological wherewithal to make an impact on a global level through blogging and social media. This is not the case for millions of women around the world.
So many women, particularly those who live in rural areas of developing nations, do not have the access to education and resources to make the difference they want. But time and time again we see that women are resourceful and use what they have to make a difference that is echoed and lauded around the world.
Tonight on Care.org, there will be an online screening of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, the story of the women – both Christian and Muslim – who stood up against the brutal and bloody regime of ousted president Charles Taylor.
After the screening there will also be a discussion. I hope to see you there.
Watch the trailer of Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
Over the next few weeks the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women is holding high level talks about rural women. I tweeted during the opening session and general discussion. I have included some of my tweets along with pertinent tweets of others who shared information from Day 1.
I have a great interest in the plight of rural women as I was able to meet many in Kenya when I traveled to Africa last summer with ONE. In fact, I wrote about how collectives in dairy farming can better improve the lives of women living in rural Kenya. You can read my article, One Cow Can Change an Entire Community, on Care2.com.