Did you know that today is World Toilet Day?

According to the United Nations, 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets, and 1 billion people still defecate in the open.

This problem is particularly acute for women and girls, who at best suffer a loss of dignity and at worst are at risk of sexual harassment, abuse and rape if they do not have access to a safe and private toilet. Indeed, these concerns are significant enough to prevent girls from attending school, adding to the already considerable challenges faced by the country’s female population in terms of basic equality and subsequent opportunities.

However, things do seem to be improving. Unicef India reports that the number of schools with separate toilets for girls has increased from from 37% in 2005-06 to 88% in 2012-13, and Prime Minister Modi has placed renewed focus on this issue by stating that by Independence Day 2015, he wants no school in India to be without separate toilets for boys and girls.

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Despite these promising signs, there is still much work that needs to be done, and as ever, particularly for the most marginalised and underprivileged people and communities.

To mark World Toilet Day on 19 November, photographers from Panos Pictures have been working with Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) to produce an exhibition that documents women and girls with their toilets, showing the effect this has on their lives. What is striking from the exhibition, albeit not surprising, is the vast difference in facilities available to women and girls across the world. And with a bit of reflection, one can begin to appreciate just how significantly those at the unfortunate end of the scale are impacted, both on a daily basis and also long-term and inter-generationally; it’s another factor preventing the cycle of poverty from being broken.

If you would like to make a change on World Toilet Day click here to discover and donate to a sanitation project on LetzChange. We deduct no fees whatsoever from your donation and every donation is matched up to the value of Rs. 5000.

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