There’s shopping, and then there's toilet shopping

Feb 12, 2014


Kristy Kade
Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer

Sadly, this disco throne from WaterAid in America's 2010 World Toilet Day festivities was not available at the bathroom emporium.

You've heard of shopping, of course.  Clothes shopping, grocery shopping, even furniture shopping.  But how many of you have ever thought about toilet shopping?  Did you ever stop to wonder who picked out that light blue toilet in your neighbor's house?  Or that plain while toilet in your office building?  How about the toilet in your very own home?

Until a few weekends ago, toilet shopping was not part of my repertoire.   But now that my husband and I are renovating our house, I'm shopping for all sorts of interesting things - like toilets! 

Luckily for us, there is a place for home renovators who need toilets - a bathroom emporium.  Sinks!  Toilets!  Bath tubs!  All there for you to test, try, and possibly make your own.  While bathroom shopping at the emporium, we were able to test all sorts of toilets - high end, low end, modern, traditional.

While considering the color, shape, and model of our new toilet, I couldn't help but think about PATH's global health work.  Part of our scope of work - like so many of our partners - includes a focus on reducing diarrhea and pneumonia morbidity and mortality, and a proven way to reduce these diseases is by improving access to sanitation and hygiene.   But in the countries where we work and travel, how many people have access to improved sanitation, let alone a toilet emporium?  How many toilet emporiums exist in Ethiopia?  What about India?  How many people can just point to a toilet and have it delivered to their home, confident that it will be connected to water and sewer and flushing in no time?

In how many countries could a woman unashamedly go toilet shopping with her husband?   What I was able to do freely and without ridicule, many women would never dream.  In many countries a husband or father makes decisions about family expenditures and whether or not a latrine is a valuable expense.  Forget color and size, or choosing the modern model.  In so many countries where we work, a standard latrine slab is the only choice.  You either get one or you don't.

I developed a new appreciation for the ease with which I can find a toilet or wash my hands - at home, at work, at a restaurant, or on a plane.  Not every community needs a toilet emporium of their own, but every community does need access to clean, safe, hygienic sanitation facilities.

Next time you go to the bathroom, consider how comfortable you are.  How high or low the toilet is.  Whether it automatically flushes, or you have to face the grimy handle.  And then consider the more than 2 billion people globally who don't have this luxury.  They're unable to access any time of improve sanitation, let alone a self-flushing, shiny, new model.  As we race towards 2015, the sanitation Millennium Development Goal looms far in the distance.  What really matters are the millions of boys, girls, women, and men we need to reach with a toilet.  A simple, clean, functioning toilet.


For more information:

-- PHOTOS: WaterAid in America sponsored a different kind of bathroom emporium to commemorate World Toilet Day.

-- You use the toilet every day; why not celebrate it every day? Download our Places We Go 2014 calendar.

-- PHOTOS: What if every time you flushed you could make a wish?