Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sustainability & Basic Human Needs

(Outside of Pune, India - Photo:RLW)

The next time you flush your toilet…

India has roughly 1.1 billion people. Well over 700 million of them do not have toilets in the privacy of their own homes. Over 30% of India’s 700,000 villages do not have access to a public latrine. This isn’t a problem for the men. They just walk out of doors whenever they want. It is a problem for women, as they cannot make such a display in public.

So Indian village women walk together in small groups to fields they do not own well outside their villages very early in the morning. Then they hold it all day until the fading light hides their journey in the evening. Often these groups will walk a quarter of a mile or further for privacy, which takes time away from their work day and their children. They cannot go alone, as the owner of the land might harass them, which is embarrassing. Often men will follow them and hide in the bushes and watch, which is humiliating.

This is such an indignity for Indian woman that brides have started to demand an unusual dowry item for matrimony – a toilet. These women see this as a human rights issue.

While in India I walked through several of these rural villages. You can feel the centuries pressing down upon you. I specifically told my Indian business hosts that I wanted to visit a village market and a few small villages. They were perplexed and asked me why. But of course they were men…

Richard Wottrich

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