August 24, 2015

What do a female body builder, a fashion designer, an actress and a journalist in Bhutan have in common? The answer is they all raised awareness of the importance of clean toilets and sanitation by sharing their photos and thoughts on Facebook. This clever campaign ‘Let’s make toilets a better place’ by Bhutantoilet.org aims to increase awareness in the local community of the importance of sanitation.

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BhutanToilet.org was founded in 2014 after being inspired by World Toilet Organization (WTO) and becoming a WTO member. It is one of the countries’ first charities dedicated to making a change to private and public sanitation and hygiene in Bhutan. BhutanToilet.org’s national campaign “Let’s make toilets a better place” aims to increase awareness of the 40% of the local population who still lack access to improved sanitation.

By collaborating with the Health Ministry of Bhutan, WTO, media and business enterprises; BhutanToilet.org also aims to get to build clean toilets, changing the mindsets of Bhutanese people while at the same time promoting health and hygiene. Mr Passang Tshering, the Founder of BhutanToilet.org said: “In Bhutan the toilet is a small dirty room at the back of our homes, some don’t have it and some share a badly built one.”

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The challenge in Bhutan is not only in private homes; even most restaurants don’t have toilets. Whereas the toilets that are available in restaurants, schools and public ‘pay for use’ toilets are not maintained in a proper way. So much so that even when free toilet paper is provided, people smuggle in twigs and hard cardboard to use instead! This usage results in blockages and irreparable breakdowns.

According to Mr Passang Tshering, their organisation is trying to spread the spirit of WTO in giving the toilet its due importance as a comfort room, and place it as being as important as any other room in the house. They asked the most popular movie stars and other celebrities of Bhutan to help by posing for a photograph with a whiteboard with their message promoting the charities goals.

Most messages written on the whiteboard next to the celebrities resound with their profession; The bodybuilder promotes the toilet training and lifestyle habit aspect; the fashion designer declares the toilet ‘never out of fashion’ while the journalist stresses the right to speak out for basic rights. On other whiteboards held by celebs, the public were asked to rate restaurants on whether there is a restroom available. In the words of Mr. Passu; “We intend to build a stronger relationship between the people and their toilets, before we build more public toilets.”

We’d love to hear about what you’re doing to advocate for improved sanitation in your community! Share your initiatives with us by emailing us at online@worldtoilet.org for a chance to be featured in our newsletter and on our Facebook page

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