Omar Abdul-Rahim / Sun Staff Photographer

The 2016-17 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows present about the global sanitation crisis at Uris Hall on Nov. 16.

November 20, 2016

Cornell Fellows: Lack of Toilet Access In Developing Countries Leaves Women, Girls Vulnerable

Print More

Members of the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship at Cornell — an international program in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — examined world gender and sanitation issues at a panel discussion on National Toilet Day Saturday.

The United Nations named Nov. 19 National Toilet Day in July 2013. While the event’s name may sound peculiar, the day is dedicated to increasing awareness of the lack of adequate sanitation and bathroom facilities in developing countries.

The basic challenges developing countries face are widespread sickness from dehydration and other diseases caused by inadequate sanitation, lack of sanitation facilities in schools and weak economies, according to Adam Defaa, a HHF fellow.

“Only 16.2 percent of people in the state of Jharkhand have toilet facilities,” said Gaytri Devi, a HHF fellow. This means the remaining population is forced to utilize open defecation, according to Devi.

Insufficient sanitation conditions can pose a particular safety threat for women and girls, who have to share the same spots for open defecation with men. The locations for open defecation are not safe, and women are at high risk of being attacked or harassed by men when relieving themselves, according to Monipel Owusua Ansong, a HHF fellow.

“There have been cases that women and young girls go to open defecation sites and never return home, due to human trafficking,” Devi said.

Defaa emphasized the woman’s need for secure and hygienic toilets.

“We don’t know if she needs a laptop, public office, or internet, but we are sure she needs a safe and clean toilet every single day of her life,” Defaa said.

The sustainable development goal of the HHF is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. To accomplish this goal, the Fellowship believes the governments in these developing countries should work to strengthen the sanitation sector and integrate adequate sanitation into schools.

The HHF Program is a national program in which 15 colleges — including Cornell — participate.

“The main goals of the of the HHF are cultural exchange between fellow countries and the USA in order to increase U.S citizens’ knowledge about issues in developing countries [and to] create leaders … with the goal that they help their society after the project is finished and when they come back to their countries,” said Milica Petrovic, a HHF member.