Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Photo: The Sanitation is Dignity exhibit outside the train station in Bremen, Germany. Photo courtesy German Toilet Organization.
As shocking as it may sound, 2.6 billion people in the world do not have access to basic sanitation, according to the World Bank.
Access to a toilet is so basic in most western societies that people don’t even think twice about it.
That is why the German Toilet Organization (GTO) created the Sanitation is Dignity campaign.
Aimed at raising awareness, the Sanitation is Dignity campaign asks the question: “Where would you hide if you had no toilet?”
The travelling exhibition consists of several plastic human figures squatting beside buildings, bushes, rocks, trash cans and umbrellas. These figures are placed near legislatures and monuments and ask the viewer to recognize the importance of having access to modern sanitation facilities.
The exhibition was recently on display at the World Water Week in Stockholm. It has previously been shown in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Africa, Kenya, Singapore and at the United Nations in New York.
In October, the exhibition will travel to Hamilton, Ont., as part of the 2008 International Year of Sanitation workshop on water and sanitation.
That event will also be the official launch of the Canadian Toilet Organization (CTO).
Ari Grief, a 36-year-old Toronto filmmaker, is one of the principals behind the organization. He became involved with sanitation issues while making a documentary film about toilets.
“Nobody in Canada is talking about the issues of toilets and sanitation in a frank manner,” said Mr. Grief, in a telephone interview from Toronto. “There is really no outlet for the general public to discuss (sanitation issues). We are in a position here in Canada to help developing countries who don’t have toilets.”
Mr. Grief just returned from Stockholm and has seen the Sanitation is Dignity exhibition.
“The intention of the exhibit is two-fold: one, it is to convey information that many people don’t know (i.e. 2.6 billion people around the world don’t have access to modern sanitation facilities),” said Mr. Grief. “If you are forced to (relieve yourself) behind a bus stop or in an alley, that is pretty embarrassing. Being able to go to the bathroom in private gives us our dignity. Secondly, the figures try to dispel the toilet taboo and get people to talk about the issue.”
Mr. Grief hopes the CTO will bring important water and sanitation issues to the forefront and get Canadians talking about them.
“We need to individually start to take action by installing low-flush toilets,” said Mr. Grief.
He also believes we must develop alternative methods for the disposal of human waste.
“With world-wide water shortages occurring, why do we still flush our waste away with drinking water?” he asked.
“Why not capture rain water to flush toilets? There is very good technology out there to use gray water as well (such as bathwater, dishwasher water).”
In addition, many businesses are producing vacuum toilets, dry toilets and even composting toilets, as an alternative to the water-based flush toilet.
Something to think about, the next time you visit the restroom.