Pakistan, Karachi: sanitation, more than just household latrines

This moving anecdote illustrates how the lack of public toilet affects women in Pakistan. It was posted as a comment to an article in newspaper Dawn about the release in Pakistan of WaterAid’s report “Off-track, off-target: Why investment in water, sanitation and hygiene is not reaching those who need it most”.

Besides 48 million Pakistanis who defecated in the open, there are millions of women in big cities who have no place to go to when out of their homes. Pakistani women are shoppers, they spend hours in bazaars where there are few public toilets for men, and most certainly, none for women. I experienced an incident sometime ago, and also sent the story to Jung newspaper; they published it under the heading “Vo auwrat”, but nothing was done about it. I was approached by a young boy hardly 5-6 years old near Empress Market who asked me where the toilet was. I stopped and looked around and saw a young woman in burka sitting on her heels near the wall on the footpath with tears in her eyes, and she covered her face when she saw me looking at her. I did nothing, I could do nothing, I just walked away. People who have been to the Empress Market know that nothing could be done to help that poor lady. How many women go through that agony in Pakistan, everyday, I don’t know.

Source: Agha Ata, comment posted 20 Nov 2011 on “Causing a Stink”, Dawn, 19 Nov 2011

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