Why the U.N. Is Raising a Stink About Toilets Today

The United Nations wants us all to unleash our potty mouths. Before you loose foul language in the comments, let me explain.

Nov. 19 is the World Toilet Day. Puns aside, sanitation is important to talk about. But few of us do.

In the meantime, one in three people in the world don’t have access to a sanitary toilet. That’s 2.4 billion folks. A thousand children die every day because of bad sanitation.

Lack of toilets plays a role in everything from health to the environment to gender inequity.

A common stigma related to sanitation is menstruation, for instance.

Girls in East Africa miss an average of five days of school because of their periods. And in the United States, those who bleed while homeless struggle to afford pads, tampons or other menstrual products and even find a clean bathroom. 

This year, however, the U.N. puts the spotlight on workplace sanitation. From a strict money perspective, a lot of countries lose as much as 5 percent of their gross domestic product from bad hygiene.

From a human perspective, nearly one in five employees who die at work worldwide die of diseases caused by lack of sanitation. Women and girls often don’t have safe, clean facilities of their own, exposing them to violence as they relieve themselves in the open.

The suffering is overwhelming. Solutions aren’t easy to come by, especially when so many are reluctant to even talk about the issue.

In such a grim reality, the U.N. has turned to humor to raise awareness. Laughter is accessible. Laughter helps us think clearer.

Let this befuddling but cute video start the conversation.

I don’t know what I just watched either.

But the U.N. urges us to share the video and even replicate the “Toilet Dance” with our friends and coworkers to celebrate how sanitation helps our communities. Videotape performances and share on social media with the hashtag #ToiletDance.

Spread the word also by downloading and hanging some free posters at work, doing art related to sanitation and learning more about the importance of toilets in our communities.

Read about how trailblazers like Suhani Jolota start businesses that bring affordable menstrual products to their communities.

Granted, we shouldn’t stop at awareness. Consider joining a Sanitation Club or giving time or donations to a trusted nonprofit that promotes sanitation. (Guidestar has a few ideas.)

Support adding more safe, accessible public toilets in your hometown by writing letters to local leaders and showing up for public comment city council meetings. Consider defending initiatives that make it safer for everyone to use the bathroom, no matter their gender identity.

We need to do something.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Hometuition P.
Hometuition Pabout a year ago

Looking for a job from the beginning is very important for teachers in home tuition pudu

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Trish K.
Trish Kabout a year ago

Birth Control. Why isn't the U.N. giving free vasectomies , pills, tube tying , or what ever people need and can live with. This world is over crowded. We are killing the planet finding resources to save the people who are already here and live in dire poverty without clean water or sanitation. Birth Control.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Bearaabout a year ago

Millions of people do not even have piped drinking water. In Cairo entire districts have no water except the odd standpipe or spout where people have to pay per litre and bring their own carriers.

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Bearaabout a year ago

Most of those cartoon toilets are taking on male personas, like the business man and male doctor. Any reason?

Teresa W.
Teresa Wabout a year ago


Brian F.
Brian Fabout a year ago

Composting toilette's are the solution that needs to replace flush toilette's that waste a lot of water, and require expensive sewage treatment facilities. In many countries such as Haiti, compost toilette's are the only option, because they can't afford expensive sewage treatment plants.

Sofia B.
Sofia Babout a year ago

It's depressing how much of the discussion around sanitation is focused on flushing water closets, instead of lifting up proper composting toilets. They are as hygienic where used, but they cause a lot less environmental problems to dispose of (properly composted it becomes prime fertilizer whereas black water takes a lot of energy to clean) and are much easier and cheaper to implement.

As for menstrual products, personally my absolute favourite is the menstrual cup, because I feel secure with it and can forget I even have it in until bathroom time, not to mention it is durable so a one time investment lasts for years, and as such also very environmentally friendly. It is also comfortable and unnoticeable when swimming and in the sauna.

Though in areas with no or limited access to running water I can see it might be a bit challenging (less for an experienced user, but more effort to learn the correct procedures), so it's good that they are spreading reusable cloth pads. The monetary and environmental cost of single use products is simply staggering and leaves those not able to afford them always insecure of how it will work out next month, while reusables gives their recipients security and autonomy regarding future periods.