Governments, civil society and business must work together to tackle sanitation for women’s health

News

19 Nov 2013 | AU

A collaborative approach between governments, civil society and business is essential to getting the Millennium Development Goal sanitation target back on track in order to improve the health and prosperity of women worldwide, says a new report jointly published by the United Nations hosted organisation Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, international charity WaterAid and Unilever’s leading toilet brand Domestos.

The report, We Can’t Wait, was presented by WaterAid Australia to the Australian Foreign Minister’s office today and at a UN event in New York which celebrates the official recognition of World Toilet Day. The day serves to remind the world that over 2.5 billion people lack access to a safe toilet, with devastating consequences in particular for the well-being, health, education and empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

The report highlights the stark consequences for women and girls of the lack of access to toilets. One in three women worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet and 526 million women have no choice but to go to the toilet out in the open. Women and girls living without any toilets spend 97 billion hours each year finding a place to go.  

This is the first time the three organisations, representing the worlds of business, UN and NGOs, have come together in this way on sanitation. The report brings together real life case studies of people in the developing world, alongside research from a variety of organisations and agencies that examine the impact of a lack of sanitation on women and girls.

In the report, UN Deputy-Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, and Paul Polman, Unilever Chief Executive Officer, declare:

“One in three lacks access to adequate sanitation. The result is widespread death and diseases – especially among children – and social marginalisation.  Women are particularly vulnerable. 

“Poor sanitation exposes females to the risk of assault, and when schools cannot provide clean, safe toilets girls’ attendance drops. We simply cannot wait. 

“By acting decisively we can now make a positive impact on global health, education, women’s safety, social equality and economic growth for generations to come”.

The report puts forward a number of recommendations including the following:

  • Governments make strengthening the sanitation sector and bringing the Millennium Development Goal target on sanitation back on track an immediate and urgent political priority.
  • Governments (of both developing and donor countries) across the world keep their promises and implement the commitments made at national level, regional level (AfricaSan, SACOSAN) and global level (Sanitation and Water for All). Furthermore, they must significantly increase financial resources to the sector, use these resources wisely and ensure that the most marginalised and vulnerable people are targeted.
  • The post-2015 development framework must address water, sanitation and hygiene as priority issues, set ambitious targets to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene, and gradually reduce and eventually eliminate inequalities in access and use.
  • Sanitation should be integrated into education policy supported by sufficient resources and concrete plans to ensure that:
    • All schools have adequate sanitation facilities including hand washing facilities and separate toilets for boys and girls with access for students with disabilities.
    • Specific provision is made at school for establishing proper menstrual hygiene management facilities.
    • Hygiene promotion is featured as an important part of the school curriculum from primary level.
  • The role for public private partnerships in addressing the sanitation crisis has been formally recognised. More actors in the private sector must realise the social and business opportunities and invest in social development. More frequent and cross-sector collaboration is essential to achieving real progress.

 WaterAid Australia Chief Executive, Adam Laidlaw said:

“At the turn of the millennium, world leaders promised to halve the proportion of people living without access to an adequate toilet by 2015. At current rates of progress, around half a billion people will have to wait another decade before they get this basic service they were promised. Every hour 70 women and girls die from diseases brought about from a lack of access to sanitation and water. We can and should be doing better.”

 Jean-Laurent Ingles, Unilever Senior Vice President Household Care said:

“We need a concerted effort that combines the experience, knowledge and resources of both public and private sector organisations to bring safe sanitation to hundreds of millions of people. Domestos has over 90 years of experience in germ killing and is committed to working in partnerships to help build a ‘clean, safe toilet for all’. By doing this we aim to grow our business and help to improve the health and wellbeing of 1 billion people around the world.”

 Dr. Chris Williams, Executive Director, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council said:

“Sanitation and hygiene are motors which drive health, social and economic development around the world. An environment that lacks sanitation and clean water is an environment where achieving other development goals is an impossible dream. The time to act is now.”

For more information please contact:

Kirrily Johns
+61 (0)3 9001 8246
Kirrily.johns@wateraid.org.au

About World Toilet Day

The decision to mark World Toilet Day on 19 November was aimed to help the UN raise awareness and mobilise action that can save millions of lives. 2.5 billion people lack toilets and poor sanitation is a leading cause of disease and child deaths. Adopting a new resolution, the General Assembly urged UN Member States and relevant stakeholders to encourage behavioural change and the implementation of policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor, along with a call to end the practice of open defecation.

About WaterAid

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 27 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 19.2 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 15.1 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org.au

About Unilever

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries. Our products are present in 7 out of 10 homes globally and are used by over 2 billion people on a daily basis. We work with 173,000 colleagues around the world and generated annual sales of over €50 billion in 2012. Over half of our company’s footprint is in the faster growing developing and emerging markets (55% in 2012). Working to create a better future every day, we help people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known brands such as Knorr, Persil / Omo, Dove, Sunsilk, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Rexona / Sure, Wall’s, Lux, Rama, Ponds and Axe, 14 of which now generate a turnover of €1 billion or more.

Our ambition is to double the size of our business, whilst reducing our overall environmental footprint (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal) and increasing our positive social impact. We are committed to helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, sourcing all our agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, and decoupling our growth from our environmental impact. Supporting our three big goals, we have defined seven pillars, underpinned by targets encompassing social, environmental and economic areas. See more on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/.

Unilever has been recognised in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes for 14 consecutive years. We are included in the FTSE4Good Index Series and attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index. In 2012 Unilever led the Climate Counts Company Scorecard for the second year running and the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the GlobeScan /Sustainability latest annual survey - for the third year running. The company is an employer of choice in many of the countries in which it operates and is seen as a symbol for innovation and leadership development. Unilever consistently achieves strong recognition in this area by independent bodies and was voted best company in Europe for leadership in the 2013 Hay Group study.

About the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is a global multi-stakeholder partnership and membership organization that works to save lives and improve livelihoods. It does so by enhancing collaboration among sector agencies and professionals who are working to improve access for the 2.5 billion people without safe sanitation and the 780 million people without clean drinking water. Through its work, WSSCC contributes to the broader goals of poverty eradication, health and environmental improvement, gender equality and long-term social and economic development. WSSCC supports coalitions in around 20 countries, members in more than 160 countries, and a Geneva-based Secretariat hosted by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).