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Twin a toilet and keep women safer

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Jem McCarron
WVoN co-editor

Going to the toilet is an inconvenience, especially for women. There are few things more frustrating than being in the middle of a great movie, stuck in a traffic jam or at a music festival and hearing the ‘call of nature’.

Now imagine a young woman living in a refugee camp in sub-Saharan Africa. She has been uprooted from her home and stuck in the middle of a temporary camp site with thousands of strangers.

For her, the ‘call of nature’ could result in sexual assault or rape.

Stepping out of the relative security of a refugee camp or village, even away from a school building, to find somewhere private to go to the toilet puts girls and women at risk every single day.

And, even if they manage to find somewhere free of human predators, many women get bitten by snakes while squatting in the grass.

According to WHO/UNICEF, some 2.6 billion people do not have access to safe toilet facilities – a massive 40 per cent of the world’s population.

In response to this desperate situation, UK-based charities Cord and Tearfund came up with the novel idea of Toilet Twinning.

For just £60 you can twin your toilet with one built by the organisation. You receive a framed certificate of your toilet’s twin and the GPS co-ordinates of the latrine so that you can even look it up on Google Maps.

The certificate is an excellent addition to the ‘smallest room’ in any home, school or business and certainly provides an interesting talking point, a definite improvement on risqué books or old newspapers!

What is so nice about this campaign is that they have managed to find a way to raise awareness and, crucially, money with a little tongue-in-cheek humour.

It is also humbling as we make use of our luxurious bathrooms to be reminded of the very basic brick facilities millions of people around the world are grateful for.

Since 2009, the charity has built more than 1,600 toilets in Burundi, serving almost 10,000 people.

Yet that is just a drop in the ocean when predictions say we are seriously lagging behind the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000.

Lorraine Kingsley, a spokesperson for the Toilet Twinning project, says: “Improving access to decent sanitation and clean water is about more than preventing diarrhoea. If you don’t have somewhere private to go to the toilet, you wait until it’s dark to preserve what dignity you can. However, this exposes women to other risks, including sexual violence.

“Having somewhere safe to go to the toilet impacts a woman’s dignity, security, health and livelihood – it’s life-changing.”

It makes that frustrating trip to the loo seem like yet another of those first world problems we need to put in perspective.

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