Monday, 19 November 2012

Poll reveals increased harassment against women over toilet use

A recent poll conducted by WaterAid Nigeria in five slums in Lagos has revealed that 40 per cent of women in these slums have no toilets and are forced to defecate in the open.
Dr. Michael Ojo, the organisation’s Country Representative, made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday in Abuja, while commenting on the World Toilet Day.
He said the poll was conducted in Ajegunle, Ijora, Badia, Oko Agbon and Otto-Oyingbo from Oct. 18 to Oct.22 by “GlobeScan’’, an international polling and research company, commissioned by WaterAid.

“The poll interviewed 500 women about their experiences of and around sanitation and the results show that 67 per cent of women feel unsafe using a shared or community toilet in a public place.
“ Forty per cent of women in the slums of Lagos have no toilets and are forced to defecate outside.
“A quarter of these had either first or second hand experience of harassment, a threat of violence or actual assault in the last 12 months.
“ Sixty-eight per cent of women agree that the cost of using public toilets is a problem for them.
“ Sixty-one per cent of women find the toilets they regularly use to be unhygienic while 56 per cent of women avoid using toilets at certain times of the day to avoid putting themselves at risk.’’
Ojo, who noted that women issues were the core of WaterAid’s programmes, said the organisation had made great progress in the area of sanitation.
He noted it had made progress in meeting women’s immediate needs for clean water, safe toilets and improved hygiene, but also by championing their voices and their leadership.
“On this World Toilet Day, WaterAid is joining the call being made by hundreds of organisations around the  world, for governments to keep the promises made to get adequate sanitation and safe water to the world’s poorest people,’’ he said.
In the same vein, a statement issued from WaterAid International on the day reveals that more than one in three women, equalling about 1.25 billion women in the world, lack access to safe sanitation.
More so, 526 million of these women have no choice but to go to the toilet out in the open.
It stated that lack of sanitation put women at risk of shame, disease, harassment and even attack and proposed that decent toilets would make their lives safer and healthier.
“Women and girls living without toilets spend 97 billion hours each year finding a place to go.
“Every day, around 2,000 mothers lose a child due to diarrhoea caused by lack of access to safe toilets and clean water.’’
The statement stated that at current rates of progress, it will be more than 165 years before Sub-Saharan Africa met its sanitation Millennium Development Goal target, and another 350 years to get to universal access, while for South Asia, it will be more than 25 years before it met its sanitation MDG target, and nearly 70 years to get universal access at current rates of progress.
It however, stated that since 1990, around 900 million women and girls have gained access to safe sanitation facilities, and more than a billion have gained access to clean drinking water.
It decried the incessant shame, risk of sexual harassment, assault as well as animal attacks faced by a number of women in different countries with poor sanitary access.
It also noted the link between poor sanitation, water and illness with an increased risk of diarrhoea, as well as infections such as worms and trachoma, which can lead to blindness.
“Women are also more susceptible to urinary tract infections and dehydration by trying to limit going to the bathroom for long periods of time and drinking less water over the course of the day.
“As women are generally responsible for the disposal of human waste when provision is inadequate, they are more exposed to diseases such as dysentery and cholera.
It also noted that economically, women’s economic opportunities could be significantly reduced as a result of poor access to a toilet, as their time and health is affected.
“Finding a place to go to the toilet can take women away from productive activities for long periods of time.
“More broadly, poor water and sanitation stifles economic growth, costing Sub-Saharan Africa about 5 per cent of its gross domestic product each year.
“That is equivalent to the amount of aid the continent currently receives from Western nations,’’ according to the statement.
To this end, WaterAid UK has urged governments to take action and invest in sanitation and water.

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