Women and girls are often at a disadvantage, even when it comes to sanitation. The lack of a decent toilet at home forces many women to defecate in the open, such as this hilly area, or use a public toilet, which many argue is not safe, especially at night. Photo by: GMB Akash / Panos / WaterAid

A question on World Toilet Day: How are women faring on sanitation?

Women and girls are often at a disadvantage in development; lacking access to finance, education and even sanitation. They comprise half of the 2.5 billion people around the world who do not have a toilet  or access to one, according to a briefing note by nongovernmental organization WaterAid.

The lack of a decent toilet at home forces many women to defecate in the open or use a public toilet, which many argue is not safe, especially at night. Women who participated in a survey commissioned by WaterAid shared how embarrassing and dangerous the practice is.

“At night it is very dangerous. People get killed. A woman and a boy were killed with knives. One woman I know of has been raped,” one of the women from Mozambique said.

The lack of sanitation also poses a challenge for girls during menstruation.

“Menstruation remains a taboo in many cultures,” U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque said in a statement. “Women and girls have particular sanitation needs when they are menstruating which are rarely discussed and considered.”

Progress on sanitation under the Millennium Development Goals remains poor. A critical point in the U.N. report on sanitation, released in March, was that “it is unlikely that the world will meet the MDG sanitation target by 2015.” Most off track: South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

“If present trends continue, the Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people living without adequate sanitation services will be met in 2165, 150 years behind schedule,” WaterAid International Campaigns Manager Hannah Ellis told IPS. To address it, she said a “new goal” with a target date on universal access to basic water and sanitation by 2030 “would be a good start.”

  

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.