The ‘big squat’ to take a stand on sanitation – Jack Sim in Chennai

Jack Sim, founder, World Toilet Organization (the other WTO, as he puts it) was in Chennai [India] for an awareness drive ahead of World Toilet Day on November 19. “WTO is an advocacy group. We don’t actually build toilets; we partner with organisations across the world and share knowledge and experience,” says Sim.

He says many people have TVs and mobile phones but no toilets. “It’s about prioritising sanitation; 40% of the world has no access to proper toilets. Sanitation is about making people aware of the relationship between hygiene and health,” he says.

WTO which has over 200 partners worldwide, 42 of which are in India is one of the few organisations that focusses only on sanitation and toilets instead of water. “Everyone clubs water and sanitation, and 95% of the funds go towards water projects. But good sanitation is the first step towards clean water,” he says.

Sim started “the other WTO” in 2001 to disseminate serious facts with a sense of humour. The logo is a toilet seat shaped like a heart. “I thought the best way to break the toilet taboo was to use lots of puns.” But the name, which everyone thinks is “really bad at first” sticks in people’s minds. “That’s because every mother has told her child not to talk about the toilet. It’s not polite’. And here we are talking about the loo quite freely,” says Sim, who is often called Toilet Man.

And it’s not just about getting toilets installed. “You have to keep them clean too. So Sim has started the World Toilet College in Singapore that provides training in toilet maintenance and design. “I’m hoping we can open one in India too to train toilet cleaners like technicians.”

He believes people need to be given incentives to keep toilets clean. “For instance, for a city or a mall, tell them how many tourists or customers they’re losing because they have bad toilets. In a rural area or slum, get the community involved by making them paint the toilet, bright and colourful, so that they feel proud of it and keep it clean,” he says. “You need to create an emotional connect with the toilet. If you keep scolding people, it’s not going to work.”

This year, for World Toilet Day, WTO is planning a Big Squat. “We’re getting people all over the world to squat together in public places and take a picture. It’s a fun way to get the message across and make people laugh,” he says. World Toilet Day, according to him, provides the legitimacy for people to talk about toilets openly. “Toilets are like sex, everyone wants to discuss it, but is waiting for someone else to break the taboo.”

Source: Shalini Umachandran, Times of India, 11 Nov 2009

One response to “The ‘big squat’ to take a stand on sanitation – Jack Sim in Chennai

  1. Cornelly McAlmont

    This is an interesting and useful article especially for persons without toilets and those who do not know how to use toilets correctly. .

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