I read a crazy statistic yesterday. A World Bank stat that said 30 million people in Kenya use rudimentary latrines to relieve themselves. It went on to say that 6 million people defecate openly, which means that only about 10 million Kenyans have access to sanitation services that are hygienic, and equally as important, dignified.

To use rudimentary latrines is to lose your dignity. It means walking with a pail of water whenever you need to handle your business. That means, unless you do it at night, then everybody knows when, and how often you handle business. It means having to clean someone else’s mess before you create yours. Worse even, fate forbid you develop a running stomach and now everyone has to work their business schedule around yours.

I think the best way to get a raise at work, is to ambush your HR outside the toilet 😂. Meet them outside, where the air freshener is doing a shoddy job at keeping up their appearances. Then you stop them, fiddling with the lock, as they pray you don’t go in and then judge them, and their hydration habits. You ask what happened to your Balance Score Card report, and whether you’re still up for that 15% increment they promised because you met all your objectives 🤔. The raise will come, if you play your cards right, and if you have a strong bladder/sphincter muscles lol 😁. Keep them engaged, for a brief moment, until they agree to your demands.

For real though, there’s something vulnerable about the toilet. It’s such a little room with such huge implications. I once read a Reader’s Digest article that said that an engaged couple, heavy in love, split up after sharing a toilet during a camping trip, that they couldn’t handle each others’ sights and smells up close. You put up with someone’s laundry, and texting habits, but the toiletry ones get to be your relationship’s undoing 😬. Shows how intimate it is, it’s where, as business is handled, magazine are read, where top scores for games are reached , where legs get numb from sitting in that position, where, sometimes, it takes repeated knocking to get the door unlocked.

I think it’s because we have to expose a part we keep covered up for the business to be handled. That noises, and smells, that are not a representation of who we are, are made during the handling of the business mean toilets should be dignified spaces. Private, clean and available for anyone that needs to use them. In developing countries, and underdeveloped regions, priority isn’t given to sanitation services, staving off hunger and seeking rent supersede provision of water for sanitation services. The effects of poor sanitation are mostly captured as cholera, dysentery and stomach aches. Very few reports show the effect of poor sanitation on the dignity of human beings 😞, how having to forgo business because of the state of the toilet does to you, what handling business in an unclean environment makes you feel, what seeing unclean toilets does to your being.

For the sake of better health, which is vital to a country’s prosperity, then services so important, and vulnerable should be availed indiscriminately. In hygiene and abundance for all to use, seeing as it is almost a basic need. There are brilliant start ups that have demonstrated that it is possible to use innovative practices to solve the sanitation challenge. From those that turn waste into energy, to those that use sand and sawdust in arid areas, to urinals that collect urine in sanitary conditions and converts it into high-quality fertilizer. Most of these cost between $3-$100 while serving hundreds of people, providing clean alternatives to previously unclean options.

These are options that could save governments whose people suffer under the challenges that unsanitary toilets bring. They can bring clean sanitation services, ensure the dignity of their people, while contributing to a green world. As the census draws closer, this are the questions we should demand from our elected officials. What are they doing to ensure that as many people as possible have access to clean, sustainable sanitation services, that will safeguard both their health and dignity.

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