“Sanitation is more important than independence,” said Mahatma Gandhi.
We are independent now, but sanitation is still a problem in our country. It seems Indians have taken the word “procrastination” very seriously, as we all have the tendency to keep more important things stacked for later.
What do Indians understand by Sanitation?
They do understand that it is to do with toilets and cleanliness, but the reality is, Toilet security for women in India is less about the availability of toilets and more about gender disparity. According to a recent research, toilet access enables a choice but not a solution, women identified a multitude of concerns associated with their urination and menstruation experiences even if they owned functional toilets.
According to the article – From toilet insecurity to toilet security: creating safe sanitation for women and girls, published in the journal WIREs Water, the absence of toilet on a household is indicative of a woman’s lack of decision-making capacity in her own house. The men who manage the household income might be convinced that the toilet is not a good investment.
According to the recent figures by WHO and UNICEF, India continues to have the highest number of people defecating in the open. Census 20q1 had revealed that only 32.7% rural population has access to toilets. Women are taken as a symbol of strength in the Indian culture, but that, in no sense, means that they bear the brunt. Open defecation is not only a matter of embarrassment and humiliation of revealing oneself in open, it is also a Pandora’s box of serious health consequences, harassment, violence and psychological stress. When we talk about toilet insecurity, it is not only about the risk of defecating in the open due to lack of toilets but also having access to public toilets which is unusable or unsafe. According to a survey, most women found poor design, lack of cleanliness and maintenance, insufficient lighting and other infrastructural factors being a cause of their inability to use toilets.
A step towards improvement
How many of you have watched Akshay Kumar’s movie ‘ Toilet’? No, this article is not a summary of that movie (as you might think), but I will just like to appreciate the movie makers for taking such an initiative. Media is the most effective way of bringing about the desired change.
The next important thing to be done is ‘ Female Literacy’. A household in which a woman has obtained higher education is 3.1 times more likely to use toilets.
The government must ensure that a larger proportion of funds are directed towards social marketing and educating people about hygiene. As female literacy is important, it would be wise to actively involve women in policymaking.
Improvement of sanitation by improving the availability of water, absence of seepage, proper infrastructure are all important factors.
Women, raise your voice,
Say no to open defecation.
Ignorance demands heavy price,
Prioritise female sanitation.