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Lack of toilets is out of order

Tearfund | 16 Nov 2018

Over two billion people around the world lack access to a safe, clean toilet of their own. It’s bad news for every one of those people. However it has the greatest impact on the 1.25 billion women and girls.

To mark World Toilet Day (19 November), here are two short stories of how life is shaped for women by access to (or lack of) a simple latrine.

Dreaming of different
In Bridget’s village in Rukungiri, Uganda, education is highly prized. ‘When I finish school, I want to become a nurse,’ says Bridget aged 14. ‘I need to stay healthy.’ Until recently, teenage girls watched their ambitions wither when they started their period.

Old toilets at the local primary school were virtually unusable, so teenage girls missed class for a week each month – many left school altogether. Early marriage was a more realistic prospect than a medical career. ‘If we felt sick, we’d miss class and that would affect our performance in exams,’ says Bridget.

Bridget’s prospects were transformed by a new toilet block with girls’ changing rooms built by a Tearfund partner. Within three months, 65 girls re-enrolled in class.

A flush of excitement
Without a toilet, Purna from Sikre in Nepal almost died of diarrhoea. It took a day to reach hospital: her son, Bishwo, carried her on his back. ‘The doctor told us if we’d waited, we’d have lost our mother,’ he says.

When he attended Tearfund partner’s sanitation workshops, Bishwo realised his latrine was contaminating a stream used for drinking water.

He used savings and sold two goats to pay for a new, non-polluting toilet – and invited neighbours to his Toilet Open Day. He told them they should build loos too and thankfully many more in his village have.


To mark World Toilet Day, Toilet Twinning is inviting women and girls to join their Big Squat on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral on Monday 19 November – in solidarity with the 1 billion women and girls worldwide who still don’t have a safe, proper toilet. Find out more at


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