Valuing Toilets this World Toilet Day 2021

A timber outdoor toilet on a hillside in Bubumala Village in Guadalcanal Province, Solomon Islands

This World Toilet Day, the theme "Valuing Toilets" recognises the importance of toilets to public health and wellbeing, gender and social equality, education, economics, and the environment. Although this toilet offers a spectacular view across a valley in Bubumala Village, Guadalcanal Province, Solomon Islands, it isn't easily accessible or particularly safe. Water for Women partners are committed to improving these situations for all. (photo: Clement Lifoia, Solomon Islands National University / International WaterCentre)

Who cares about toilets?

3.6 billion people globally do, because they don't have one. That's why we care, too.

Friday, 19 November is World Toilet Day. Toilets are so important that this day has been an annual United Nations Observance since 2013.

Access to sanitation is recognised by the United Nations as a human right. Every human being has the right to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and socially and culturally acceptable, and that provides privacy and ensures dignity. 

“Safely managed sanitation” or a “safe toilet” is defined as a facility not shared with other households, that either treats or disposes of human waste on site, stores it safely to be emptied and treated off-site, or connects to a functioning sewer. 

When some people in a community don’t have safe toilets, everyone’s health is compromised. Poor sanitation contaminates drinking-water sources, water systems and food crops, spreading deadly diseases like cholera and typhoid. Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces. Every day, more than 700 children under five years old die from diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene (UN Water 2021).

The theme “Valuing Toilets” recognises the critical importance of toilets to public health, safe and dignified menstrual hygiene management, gender and social equality, education, economics, and the environment. It also recognises the positive ‘ripple effect’ of investments in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs. 

WASH investments create local jobs, promote new skills development and diverse workforces - including important leadership skills for both men and women, people with disabilities and people from marginalised groups - reveal new business opportunities and industries, and encourage local innovation in response to diverse climates and cultural contexts.

According to a recent report from Water for Women partner, WaterAid, access to toilets with safely managed sanitation could return up to $86 billion per year in greater productivity and reduced health costs, and six billion cases of diarrhea and 12 billion cases of parasitic worms could be avoided between 2021 and 2040.

The World Health Organisation has also stated that for every dollar spent on WASH, a $4.30 return on investment is yielded.

Investments in improved sanitation through Water for Women are providing essential infrastructure such as safely managed toilets and taps in Asian and Pacific communities, but importantly, also strengthening WASH systems and governance to ensure sustainable and equitable access for all, which builds lasting solutions and social capital.

Water for Women is the Australian government's flagship WASH program and is being delivered as part of Australia's aid program over five years, from 2018 to 2022. Through Water for Women, Australia is investing AUD118.9m to deliver 33 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects and research initiatives, which aim to directly benefit 2.9 million people in 15 countries across South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific.


Explore recent updates on Water for Women projects that are providing safely managed sanitation and fostering social inclusion and gender equality in Asian and Pacific communities.


Generations band together for better sanitation in Bhutan

Aum Mindu standing in front of the new private pour flush toilet where she lives in Toep gewog, BhutanWhen others in Lunjam village began upgrading their toilets, 75- year-old Aum Mindu despaired that she and her granddaughter would miss out. But with community support through Water for Women's Beyond the Finish Line project with SNV in Bhutan, that all changed.

Read more 



New way of doing business: Innovative e-toilets in Odisha

Entrepreneur Bhanupriya explains how to access the public e-toilet attached to the micro-enterprise Rainbow Café that she operates in Angul municipality, Odisha

In Angul municipality, in the Indian state of Odisha, an innovative e-toilet micro-enterprise is bringing relief to residents, supporting the local economy and promoting equality and social inclusion among the community.

Read more 






Improving safe sanitation for children with disabilities in Vanuatu

Shirley standing in her doorway with her portable commode chair in the background

Shirley, born with cerebral palsy, no longer has to crawl to a pit toilet outside her home now that  she has a portable commode chair made from local materials at her disposal, enabled by Water for Women's project with World Vision in Vanuatu. 

Read more




Empowering female sanitation entrepreneurs in Cambodia 

Hat Tin standing confidently with arms crossed in her inventory yard

In rural Cambodia, women are a critical component of the water, sanitation and hygiene supply chain. Most latrine suppliers are family-run businesses and 80 percent involve a female partner. We partner with iDE to deliver business training and support that is empowering women's leadership in the private WASH sector. 

Read more 


Champhone villages celebrate open defecation free status

Villagers and officials gathered for celebrations in one of Champhone district's now Open Defecation Free villages

In April, 41 villages in Champhone district, Savvannahket province, Lao PDR, celebrated official Open Defecation Free (OPF) status, with residents now able to access safely managed sanitation and enjoy natural environments free of human excreta and the dangers it poses.

Read more


Women spearhead sanitation efforts in Cambodia

Hout Sokchea explaining the benefits of investing in a toilet to a woman and potential customer in CambodiaHout Sokchea, 28, is one of 1,457 sanitation champions working with Water for Women partner in Cambodia, iDE, to promote health, education, sanitation and hygiene in villages. To encourage toilet ownership, she seeks out the women of the household, who often drive household decisions, including buying toilets.

Read more




Scouts lend helping hand to improve sanitation in Dagana, Bhutan

Mr Thinley, a disabled man from Dagana, Bhutan, who now has an improved pour flush toilet, standing outsideThe global COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us all about the importance of access to safely managed sanitation. But for many, the cost is prohibitive - as was the case for Mr, Thinley of Khebisa gewog in Dagana, Bhutan, until the Scouts, Akhochen Primary Health Care and village volunteers built the facility he needed.

Read more 



Toilets for Timor-Leste

Community members helping to build some of the new facilities. Rural water systems recently installed in Taitudak and Ferik-Sare villages in Timor-Leste, including toilets and handwashing facilities in schools and healthcare settings, are now benefitting some 2,000 people.






Harnessing the private sector in India's drive to end open defecation 

An illustrated figure showing a cesspool vehicle, FSSM infrastructure and PPE

The Indian state of Odisha is leading the way in nationwide efforts to end open defecation, with the help of public-private partnerships facilitated through the WaSH Hub, a Water for Women supported project with partner, RTI International in India.

Read more


Insight: What's the value of a toilet?

A healthcare worker in a wheelchair on the ramp to an accessible toilet in Parsa rural municipality, Sarlahi district,  Nepal

Water for Women Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist Joanna Mott reflects on the theme of World Toilet Day this year, and asks, "What's the value of a toilet?"

Read more



Explore Water for Women knowledge & learning resources 

While World Toilet Day provides a global platform to promote the importance of safe sanitation for all, it also highlights the considerable advances that are required to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) - "Clean water and sanitation for all" by 2030. 

Access to sustainable and safely managed WASH facilities is essential to the realisation of not only SDG6, but as a cross-cutting goal, to all other Sustainable Development Goals. A central commitment to the implementation of the SDGs is to “leave no one behind.” Key to this concept is the importance of prioritising actions that benefit and empower women, the poorest, people with disabilities, and the most marginalised people in communities. 

Sustainable WASH programming is a critical entry point for supporting gender equality, diversity, and social inclusion more broadly.

Contact Us