In a world where fundamental amenities often go unnoticed, World Toilet Day serves as a stirring recall of the critical importance of proper sanitation. This day is a stark reminder that, according to United Nations data, an astonishing 4.2 billion people globally are deprived of safely managed sanitation, and a concerning 673 million continue to practise open defecation.
These figures are not just statistics; they represent a profound challenge to public health and human dignity, calling for immediate and sustained action. The theme of World Toilet Day 2023, ‘Accelerating Change,’ underscores the pressing need to intensify efforts towards achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6).
This goal, aiming for the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030, is not just a target but a fundamental human right, intricately linked to health, education, and overall societal well-being. As the 2030 deadline draws near, it is critical to galvanise global efforts and forge partnerships to meet these ambitious objectives.
The India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) plays a pivotal role in this global endeavour, striving to unite stakeholders across various sectors. By fostering innovation, recognising achievements, and facilitating effective collaboration, ISC serves as a conduit for resource optimisation and collective responsibility in the sanitation sector. This harmonious convergence of efforts, coupled with the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), exemplifies the power of synergy in addressing complex challenges.
India has made significant strides in its journey to universal sanitation adoption, despite persistent challenges. Cultural norms, lack of awareness, and infrastructural gaps necessitate innovative and inclusive solutions. Much has been achieved through education and communication campaigns marking one of the largest and much-lauded behaviour change programs in history.
Continuing these initiatives, highlighting the personal and community benefits of proper sanitation is critical for our future health and hygiene aspirations. Initiatives like integrating sanitation education into school curricula under the Swachh Bharat Mission are vital in shaping a future generation that values cleanliness and hygiene.
Provision of toilets for girls in schools has had a direct impact on their attendance in schools during their menstrual cycles. We have seen how women have benefitted from these programs with provision of toilets near their homes enabling safe and timely access and lowering incidence of urinary tract infections. Women are also playing a key role in implementing and running water and sanitation programs, endorsing the need to vet these programs through a gender lens even while we look to benefit all citizens.
Campaigns such as Mission Swachhta Aur Paani play a crucial role in promoting appropriate sanitation behaviours and raising awareness about the vital connection between sanitation and health. The campaign’s alignment with the Swachh Bharat Mission amplifies its impact, uplifting the status of sanitation workers in India and showcasing the transformative power of collective action.
World Toilet Day is a clarion call for the global community to expedite advancements in sanitation practices. The collaborative efforts of organisations like the India Sanitation Coalition, initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission and campaigns like Mission Swachhta Aur Paani are exemplary in driving meaningful change. These initiatives are not only commendable, but essential for the prosperity of communities worldwide.
By integrating education, innovation, and community engagement, we can dismantle the long-standing cultural and infrastructural barriers that impede progress. We need citizens and communities to own the process and outcomes for these efforts to be self-sustaining.
As we march towards the 2030 deadline for SDG 6, let us remember that every step we take towards improving sanitation is a step towards building a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable world. The collective will and determination of communities, governments, and organisations hold the promise of transforming this vision into reality. Let World Toilet Day be a reminder of our shared responsibility and potential to catalyse lasting change, ensuring that no one is left behind in our quest for universal sanitation. Together, we can turn the tide, making safe sanitation a reality for all.
Naina Lal Kidwai is Chair, India Sanitation Coalition. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.