In the United States the vast majority of people have access to restrooms at their home, schools, places of work and public buildings. OSHA requires that all work places have access to restrooms for all employees, and most couldn’t imagine having not access to restrooms. There are even portable restrooms provided at parks, events and outdoor spaces so we never have to go without a safe and private place to relieve ourselves. Our culture highly values providing access to restrooms for all, but that isn’t the case everywhere.
Could you image living your entire life in a place where you don’t have access to any restroom facilities? This is a reality for around 2.5 billion people today. While the lack of sanitation has a huge affect on access to clean water and food, as well as the prevalence of diseases, it has a disproportionate affect on the safety and wellbeing of women. In many places women don’t have access to private restrooms at their homes, schools or workplaces, and face violence because of it. Lack of restroom facilities for women and girls also prevents them from attending schools and working, which means less financial opportunities for them to better their situation.
Violence Against Women Due to Lack of Restrooms
According to WaterAid 1 in 3 women worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they don’t have a safe toilet to use. The complete lack of safe restroom facilities mean that 526 million of these women have to relieve themselves openly. These women must sneak away to fields or open areas, and usually wait until late at night or very early in the morning to do so.
In recent years there have been several high profile instances of women and girls being sexually assaulted and even killed while they were outside relieving themselves. In 2014 two teenage sisters from Bihar went missing after going outside to defecate, and both were found raped and killed. Their bodies were discovered hanging form a tree. This wasn’t just an isolated incidence either. It’s estimated that 400 women and girls would have “escaped” rape in Bihar if they just had access to restrooms in their homes.
Women and girls who don’t have any access to toilets spend 97 billion hours each year finding a place to safety go. Providing adequate sanitation for these women and girls should be a top priority of the national community in order to stop the violence and let them have basic dignity and safety.
Women and Girl’s Difficulty Attending School
and Work from Absence of Restrooms
The absence of restrooms in schools and workplaces are also a continuing struggle for women and girls in these parts of the world. Only 45% of schools in the least developed and low-income countries have adequate restroom facilities, which causes most women and girls drop out of school or leave work. Without proper facilities they can’t relieve themselves, but they also can’t take care of themselves during menstruation. The shame forces most of them to stay home during this time, so they fall behind in school and lose productive time at work.
The lack of restrooms is a contributing factor to the low primary school completion rate for girls. For instance, the average primary school completion rates for boys in sub-Saharan Africa stands at 56% but the completion rate for girls only stands at 46%. Also, in Bangladesh, a school sanitation program was crucial in increasing the number of enrolled girls by 11% in their school system. Who knows what these girls could achieve if they only felt the security of a private restroom at their schools and homes.
What Should Be Done to Improve Access to Safe Sanitation
In order to make sure that all women and girls have access to a safe place to use the restroom, local governments, businesses, civil societies and citizens must work together to achieve the goal of safety and sanitation for all. All government education policies and all schools should include plans to fund sanitation services for their schools. They should be providing in school facilities to every boy, girl and teacher, as well as proper hand washing facilities. They should also provide education materials to inform their teachers and students about proper sanitation practices to help prevent diseases.
There have also been some interesting movements among women in local communities to change the culture around restrooms in the home. India’s former rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh, has formed a small movement called ‘No Toilet, No Bride’. Ramesh says “I would go out and exhort women not to get married into families that did not have a toilet. And this worked. In many parts of the country, women refused.” These social movements can do a great deal to help educate women about the importance of proper sanitation and also change the societal norms around having latrines at their homes.
The lack of restrooms around the world has a large impact on the safety, health and future of women and girls throughout the world. With the lack of adequate restrooms in these areas, they can’t even use the restrooms any time of the day without facing shame or physical violence. We need to all work together to change the government culture that doesn’t prioritize sanitation for citizens. The fate of the world’s women and girls depend on it.
On Site Companies is a portable restroom provider for both construction and special events. If you have more questions about portable restrooms, or you’d like to order one in the Minneapolis / St. Paul, Rochester MN, Mankato MN, or St. Louis MO area, please reach out to us through phone at 1.800.210.8407 or email at email@example.com.
For more information about portable sanitation around the world, visit psai.org