Empowerment,Gender-Based Violence

How toilets play a role in gender equality  


Today, we’re shining the light on one of the most frequently used fixtures in our households – the toilet. Everybody and we mean everybody, here in Canada and around the world, has to relieve themselves. Unfortunately, of the world’s 7 billion people, 2.4 billion do not have access to sanitary facilities. In fact, 1 billion defecate in the open, contributing to a number of serious health issues like diarrhea – a leading cause of death among children under 5. It’s clear that where you go matters and the lack of sanitation is a global health issue, but when it comes to girls and women, it’s also an issue of gender inequality. 

A safety issue for girls and women

For girls and women, simply going to the bathroom can put their lives at risk. Sadly, according to the UN, reports of assault or harassment of girls and women on their way or while they're using the facilities are not uncommon. 

Peace stands in the bush that serves as the girls’ “toilets” at school.

Without separate and private toilets, girls and women face the shame of having to relieve themselves openly, or they put their safety at risk by going into fields or waiting until night fall to relieve themselves. This problem is exacerbated when girls or women are menstruating – a taboo experience in many developing countries. Take 14-year-old Peace, and her female classmates in Ghana, who must go into the bush surrounding their school to relieve themselves or to change when they’re menstruating. Peace shares that many of her friends feel unsafe and prefer to stay home when they have their periods, which means missing class.

A barrier to girls’ education

Globally, girls face a number of barriers to their education, and a lack of toilets can be one of them. By providing girls-only latrines, or bathrooms at schools, girls have a safe and private place to go – helping protect them from harassment and ensuring they don’t miss out on their education. Simple improvements to sanitation help make schools more welcoming and safer for girls like 7-year-old Amna, who was excited to go to school after hearing about her schools’ new girls’-only latrines built with Plan’s support.

 Before and after: The old girls' toilets at Amna's school in Pakistan (left) and the private, sanitary girls'-only toilets that were built with Plan's support (right).

Help girls feel safe when they have to go

Provide schools in developing countries with girls-only latrines, so girls can continue to go to school without shame or fear of simply needing to use the toilets.


About Plan International Canada

Learn more about Plan International Canada

Join our mailing list to receive updates

By signing up you agree to receive our emails.