World Toilet Day 2014 – Equality and Dignity

World Toilet Day 2014 – Equality and Dignity


Every year on Nov. 19, the international community celebrates World Toilet Day to create awareness about the lack of access to basic sanitation currently affecting 2.5 billion people.

This year’s theme is “Equality and Dignity.” Different stakeholders will convene at the United Nations headquarters in New York to explore, among other issues, the linkages between gender-based violence and sanitation, highlighting the incidence of increased vulnerability to all forms of violence for women and girls when there is a short supply of safe, private and easily accessible sanitation.

U.N. Women leads the global effort to end all forms of violence against women. This month, the organization places emphasis on ending violence against women by featuring facts, stories, audiovisual and social media content, and calling for action against this grave human rights violation, as part of a yearlong campaign leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action called “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity — Picture It!

toilet day



World Toilet Day is a day to take action. It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet – despite the human right to water and sanitation.

It is a day to do something about it.


Of the world’s seven billion people, 2.5 billion people do not have improved sanitation. 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Women and girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilet that offers privacy.

We cannot accept this situation. Sanitation is a global development priority. This is why the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 designated 19 November as World Toilet Day. This day had previously been marked by international and civil society organizations all over the world but was was not formally recognized as an official UN day until 2013. World Toilet Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with Governments and relevant stakeholders.

As we accelerate efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and draft a solid post-2015 development agenda, we have a historic opportunity to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. Addressing the needs of women and girls with regard to proper sanitation needs to be a vital component. Why? Because women and girls are disproportionately affected by inadequate access to sanitation due to a number of physiological, social and cultural factors. These challenges cannot be overcome without addressing the correlation between sanitation and women’s vulnerability to gender-based violence.

Overall, inadequate access to sanitation unequally affects women and girls in many of the following ways: Unhygienic public toilets and latrines threaten the health of women and girls who are prone to reproductive tract infections caused by poor sanitation; during menstruation, pregnancy and postnatal stages, the need for adequate sanitation becomes even more critical; and, when sanitation facilities are available, it tends to be women who bear cleaning responsibilities and disposal of human waste such as “manual scavengers,” making them susceptible to disease.

When women and girls do not have access to private sanitation facilities, they resort to open areas, find a remote (often unprotected and hidden) place or travel a distance to where facilities exist.

Not only does this cause women and girls to suffer indignity, severe health risks, fear, shame and ostracism, but it increases their risk of multiple abuses including harassment, bullying,  physical and sexual assault, inappropriate touching and other nonconsensual sexual acts, including rape. This causes individual harm, curtailing their freedom of mobility, limiting their productive activities, and denying them full participation in community matters and decision-making that have a bearing on their lives — while the lack of adequate sanitary facilities in schools inhibits access to education.




Equality and dignity is the theme of World Toilet Day 2014. The campaign will inspire action to end open defecation and put spotlight on how access to improved sanitation leads to a reduction in assault and violence on women and girls. More about this here. 

Having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity. Women and girls risk rape and abuse as they wait until night falls because they lack of access to a toilet that offers privacy.

Where toilets do exist, additional inequalities present in usability. Toilets generally remain inadequate for populations with special needs, such as the disabled and elderly, and women and girls requiring facilities to manage menstrual hygiene.

Without accessible toilets for these populations, they remain excluded from opportunities to attend school and gain employment.



Know your toilets…..


Important policy actions include analyzing and responding to vulnerabilities to violence in sanitation-related policies, strategies, plans, budgets and systems; building the capacity of staff and partners; consulting with gender-based violence specialists to support an appropriate response in the sector; designing, constructing and managing infrastructure to account for and reduce vulnerabilities; ensuring that community members have adequate information on safety linked to water and sanitation and hygiene and have access to reporting and recourse mechanisms; and most importantly, ensuring that women and girls, especially those who may be marginalized are consulted and part of the planning processes.

Social movements, like the “No Toilet, No Bride” initiative in India, are helping to alter behavior, social and cultural norms.

Also critical is the acknowledgement that violence occurs fundamentally because women and girls have less power in society and because of the gender discrimination they face. It is not enough to only address the immediate needs within water and sanitation. These key measures must be accompanied by the broader and more comprehensive work that is required to address violence against women and girls. This requires governments to proactively and concretely invest in structural and institutional change and social transformation that can undo the systemic gender inequality and discrimination that tolerate and allow abuse.


Much violence against girls occur at or near schools – there is a big job to be done to challenge inequalities, discrimination and violence in schools – and then to take action.

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Gender equality and access to clean, safe and private sanitation, must be prioritized in the post-2015 development agenda, taking into account the particular needs of women and girls to secure economic progress, and ensure a life of dignity and safety for all.

(ref:Begoña Lasagabaster)

Day of the Girl 2014 – breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence

Day of the Girl 2014 – breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence


While working in Eastern and Southern Africa, there is not a day goes by without hearing about girls being discriminated against and being abused just for trying to get an education. Verbal, physical and sexual violence against girls is particularly prevalent. We need to end these cycles of violence…..

Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights”

-United Nations Resolution 66/170

Day of the Girl 2014 – Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence (Podcast)


Changing the World for Girls is a collaboration between the Beyond School Books podcast series and United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). In this series you will find discussions on the lasting impact education has on girls, communities and nations around the world.

This latest episode features Kuoth Wiel, a young actress who appears in the new Hollywood release, The Good Lie; and Professor Fiona Leach, an expert on international education.

To listen the Podcast, click here.

Check this infographic on the reasons to invest in girls’ education


Malala -no stranger to violence….

Nobel Peace Prize Win for Malala Is a Message to All Students Living in Conflict- Yes You Can

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) congratulates Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousafzai, and Indian child rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi, for winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. “Around the world, girls and boys growing up in conflict face similar threats as Malala Yousafzai braved in Pakistan—her courage gives hope to all students fighting for their right to education,” said GCPEA Director Diya Nijhowne. “  “By honoring Yousafzai and Satyarthi, the Nobel Committee has recognized the critical link between addressing the dire protection needs of so many of the world’s children and achieving peace and security,” said Nijhowne.”

To read more, click here


Breaking Cycles of Gender-based Violence in Schools Starts at Home


This summer the world was captivated by the news of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria. Nigerian mothers became activists and international figures, including Malala Yousafzai, descended on the country in protest. Presidents around the world lent their voices to the outcry. Over a million tweets about the #BringBackOurGirls campaign spread throughout social media. Violence against adolescent girls in school-related settings takes center stage again this week as the world marks the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October.

Too often schools are a place where children face violence—including bullying, sexual and physical harassment and abuse, verbal violence, rape and assault. Though boys and girls are affected by SRGBV, girls are the most vulnerable.

To read the full post, click here.

Moving Images of climate change – Action4Climate.

Ten young film crews from ten different countries were chosen as winners in the Action4Climate documentary competition.


In the 18-35 age category, the $15,000 top prize went to the Portuguese filmmaker Gonçalo Tocha with this provocative film : Trail of a tale




An American film maker, Nathan Dappen, won third prize with his  Snows of the Nile, a documentary following Nathan’s adventures uncovering indisputable evidence of the fast disappearing glaciers of Uganda’s mountains of the moon.



I have to say, my particular favourite is from the younger 14-17 age group, an animated film by Francina Ramos, a young Argentinian filmmaker and her co-producer Benjamin Braceras.The Violin Player took top spot in this age range.



Get creative and educate – the future is ours if we act now!