Yes it is crass, but do I have your attention?
In the Western world we tend to think toilets are a standard part of life. They are quite simply ‘a given’.
In fact we make a lot of bad jokes about them. It is pretty core to the Australian vernacular.
The “dunny”, “can”, “trough”, or “loo” are all easy come, easy go to us Australians. Many a toilet-talk joke has been had in Oz and that will never change.
However for millions of women that live outside Australia, toilets, or their lack thereof, are a deadly serious issue.
For them toilets are never a joke. They are a matter at times of life or death.
Not having access to a toilet is literally taking their lives and the lives of their children. It is an urgent situation.
Each year, more than 2.2 million people in developing countries die from preventable diseases associated with a lack of access to adequate sanitation.
Every day, a lack of clean water and sanitation contributes to the death of 1,000 children under-five.
The social and environmental health costs of ignoring the need to address sanitation in the developing world are far too great.
I know it seems very far removed from life in Australia, however I ask you to imagine, just for a moment, you have nowhere safe or private to go to the toilet.
Imagine the physical pain caused by having to hold on for many hours until night has fallen and it’s dark before you can finally go. Imagine limiting your food and drink consumption to reduce how often you need to go.
Imagine being terrified of having to go to the toilet in the dark because of the very real risk of being sexually assaulted.
Imagine not being able to go to school because you have no access to sanitation and the impact this has long term on the advancement of women.
Imagine having no access to clean water for yourself or for your children because the flow on effect of poor sanitation in your community means the drinking water is contaminated.
Imagine the compounding sense of the loss of dignity these women feel. It is devastating to witness.
Imagine the ongoing medical consequences for these women as a result of refusing their body the ability to go to the toilet when they need to. The incidence of urinary tract infections is very high.
Finally, imagine having to give birth in a setting where there is not safe drinking water or hygienic sanitation options.