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ImpactWater & Sanitation

8 Essential Quotes on Toilets from People Who Really Know What They’re Talking About

James Hitchings-Hales


How much do you know about something so many take for granted?

Over 892 million people defecate outside — that’s even more than the number of people on Instagram. One in three people, or 2.3 billion people worldwide, have to share a toilet with multiple families in a community, whilst 4.5 billion people — over half of everybody on the planet — do not own a toilet with a good enough system to separate toilet waste from human contact. This is what’s known as a Very Big Problem. But how do we even start to flush the issue out?

Global Citizen posed the question at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, where we hosted a panel of experts who really know what they’re talking about. Sanitation leaders from all over the world — including a former Australian Prime Minister, an energy minister from Swaziland, and a grassroots activist from Nigeria — are working together in Stockholm this week to help provide an answer.

It’s not an easy ask. But we are learning that there’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful. The theme of this World Water Week 2017 is centred around reducing and reusing water and waste. So here are the eight best quotes from actual experts, recycled just for you, to help us get to the bottom of the problem.

Hon Kevin Rudd, Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of SWA

"There’s almost a mathematical proportional relationship between, on the one hand, the non-glamorous nature of water, sanitation and hygiene and, on the other hand, its objective development significance. If we don’t get SDG 6 right, none of the SDGs will function and actually be delivered.”

Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)

“For us it’s very important to bring the youth, the young generation to it… I think to be a truly global leader, you should, of course, bring the youth around. From a water and sanitation perspective, the more youth we bring in the better it is.”

H.E. Hon. Minister Jabulile Mashwama, Minister of Natural Resources and Energy: Kingdom of Swaziland

“In terms of sanitation, the status quo of open defecation is acceptable because it’s what people have always done. To try and educate people outside of that is the biggest challenge, and we are making great progress.”

Duncan Goose, Founder of the Global Investment Fund For Water and One Drinks

“I run a bottled water company in the UK which has been funding WASH programmes for the last decade — we’ve given away about $20 million… If you take the global bottled water industry as a whole, it’s currently about 400 billion litres a year and growing at a rapid rate, it’ll be over 500 billion by 2020. If you could take one cent from every litre sold around the world, you could use that in this fund to invest into sanitation and hygiene programs.”

Andrea Matsui, Sustainability Specialist at AmBev

“In Brazil alone there are 35 million people who lack water access. They’re mostly in the northeast of the country where income is lower and infrastructure is poorer… So we produced a water bottle, called AMA, where 100% of its profits go towards water access projects in Brazil.”

Chris Williams, Executive Director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

“(Menstrual hygiene) is something that resonates very powerfully with health ministers and resonates very powerfully with education because access to school, and school performance, is undermined by the fact that very few facilities in schools have access for women, particularly when they’re menstruating.”

Nanpet Chuktu, United Purpose Nigeria's programme manager for Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion

“Coordination and collaboration within the sector is one major thing if you really want to make sanitation a movement …. While we’re on the ground and the health extension workers are engaging communities, it’s important to get the public infrastructure and the public sector to pull their acts together.”

Michael Sheldrick, Global Director of Policy & Advocacy for Global Citizen

“One of our co-founders, Wei Soo, always says it’s not concerts that change people and it’s not rock stars that change people. It’s people that change people.”