Making Toilets an Object of Desire

Toilets need to compete with mobile phones and televisions as desirable lifestyle products in order to achieve sanitation for all.

For one-third of the world’s population, a clean, safe toilet — something many of us take for granted — remains out of reach. The Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic sanitation wasn’t even nearly reached. In fact, the target has been missed by almost 700 million people.

The proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) include a standalone goal dedicated to water and sanitation — Goal #6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,” and targets to end open defecation and halve the proportion of untreated wastewater. So how do we ensure the success of this goal?

Usage is key

Firstly, it is crucial that we are clear that for this goal to succeed, we will need to see a clean, safe toilet and sanitation being USED by all by 2030.

As we work to improve access to sanitation across the globe, it is critical that we address sanitation behavior. It will not be enough to simply ensure access to sanitation — people need to be using toilets in order to realize the health, dignity, economic, and gender benefits of achieving 100 percent sanitation coverage. Installing toilets in India, for instance, without addressing behavioral change, has resulted in thousands of free toilets becoming storage sheds or chicken coops, while the owners continue to defecate outside. A survey by RICE found that in India many still consider open defecation to be preferable and “part of a wholesome, healthy, virtuous life.”

Driving behavioral change is key to ending open defecation. Rational messages used by educational campaigns in the past have not gotten —> Read More